The use of supplements to help with mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety is ever present on the internet. The results from a few google searches include; 405,000,000 results for the search “Supplements for anxiety”; 751,000,000 results for “Supplements for depression”; and 11,200,000 results for “magnesium for depression and sleep”.
There are many articles with titles such as, “How to Take Magnesium for Anxiety or Depression”; “Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium”; “5 Ways Magnesium Can Help With Depression”. However, what does the research say?
What does the research say?
A 2019 review from Western Sydney University examined the evidence for the use of nutrient supplement in mental health. The reported to date, the strongest evidence for supplements in reducing mental health conditions is related to Omega- 3 and folate and N-acetylcsteine (NAC). However, they may have small benefits.
They also reported that there was no compelling evidence for the effectiveness of using magnesium in improving depressive conditions or other mental health disorders. In fact, it was no better than placebo. It was suggested that it is a misconception supplements assist treating mental health conditions. Below is a selection of the key finds in relation to Depression from the study.
|Treatment||Key findings||Indicated usage||Considerations|
|Omega-3||Small-to-moderate positive effects from high-EPA formulas in clinical depression generally, as well as an adjunctive to SSRIs in MDD||>50% EPA formulas providing 2,200 mg EPA/day||Small but significant effects observed in high-quality meta-analyses even after adjusting for publication bias Significant heterogeneity in overall analyses No benefits for MDD in comorbidity to other conditions No benefits from DHA-predominant formulas|
|Folate-based supplements||Small overall benefits for unipolar depression, with greatest effects from high-dose methylfolate in treatment-resistant MDD||15 mg/day of methylfolate as adjunctive treatment in MDD||Overall effects across folate trials become largely non-significant after excluding 15 mg/day methylfolate Moderate effects of high-dose methylfolate observed only in few small-scale RCTs|
|Vitamin D||Moderate improvements in major depression, with low heterogeneity between studies||50,000 IU per week as adjunctive treatment||Examined in only one meta-analysis of four RCTs, with low confidence in findings All RCTs from China and Iran (given vitamin D levels are influenced by sunlight exposure/region, replication is required in other settings)|
|Magnesium||No significant benefits for major depression||Multiple critical flaws in meta-analyses reduce confidence in findings|
|N-acetylcysteine – (NAC)||Small-to-moderate reductions in depressive symptoms across various psychiatric diagnoses||2,000 mg/day||Preliminary evidence: low confidence in findings and significant heterogeneity|
If you are suffering from depression the first choice treatments include psychotherapy. At the Centre for Clinical Psychology we focus on the provision of evidence based psychotherapy that is been demonstrated to be effective. Call us on 03 9077 0122 for assistance with depression.
Firth J, Teasdale SB, Allott K, Siskind D, Marx W, Cotter J, Veronese N, Schuch F, Smith L, Solmi M, Carvalho AF, Vancampfort D, Berk M, Stubbs B, Sarris J. The efficacy and safety of nutrient supplements in the treatment of mental disorders: a meta-review of meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials. World Psychiatry. 2019 Oct;18(3):308-324. doi: 10.1002/wps.20672.