EXETER, England — Depression can bring one’s life to a debilitating standstill. Many sufferers determined to beat the condition often try variety of different treatments before finding the most effective approach. Some even believe that consuming a variety of nutritional supplements every day is capable of alleviating depression. According to a study conducted at the University of Exeter, however, a cocktail of vitamins and minerals simply aren’t enough to help keep symptoms at bay.
In terms of what we put in our bodies each day, researchers concluded that regular lifestyle coaching to improve one’s diet and overall eating behavior is a better option for preventing major depressive disorder.
Often times, depression is caused by negative feelings of self worth due to weight issues. So, this study compared nutritional and lifestyle strategies that may be able to change mood and wellbeing in overweight people, as defined by Body Mass Index (BMI). Those who had a BMI of 25 or more were considered overweight by the researchers.
The researchers recruited more than 1,000 overweight or obese participants from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain. All participants were identified as having an elevated risk for depression, but were not depressed at the beginning of the study. The researchers followed the participants for a year.
Half of the participants were given daily nutritional supplements, and the other half were given a placebo. Additionally, half of the subjects also received psychological and behavioral therapy sessions intended to help them change their eating habits.
The results showed that the supplements, which provided folic acid, vitamin D, omega-3 fish oils, zinc, and selenium, had the same level of success in preventing depression as the placebos over the course of one year. Meanwhile, the therapy sessions did not significantly help prevent depression among participants, but there was some evidence it helped stop depressive episodes among certain subjects who attended all of their recommended therapy sessions and were successful in adopting a healthier diet.
According to the study’s authors, this suggests that diet modification can be helpful in combating depression, but only if an individual can commit to a sufficient “dose” of therapy and succeed in changing their diet.
“Because depression is such a common problem, finding effective and widely available ways to prevent depression at a population level is an important goal,” says Exeter Experimental and Applied Clinical Psychology professor Ed Watkins in a media release. “Diet and nutrition held promise as one means to reach large numbers of people. However, this trial convincingly demonstrates that nutritional supplements do not help to prevent depression.”
The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.