Vitamin pills and supplements don’t fight depression like a healthy diet does
While growing evidence suggests that maintaining a healthy diet can help prevent depression, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates simply taking vitamin pills or other supplements won’t cut it.
The study of more than 1,000 overweight or obese individuals from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain, found that taking vitamin pills or supplements does not ward off depression in the same ways as a healthy diet.
The participants were all identified as being at risk for depression at the outset of the study but were not currently exhibiting symptoms of depression.
For the study, the participants were split into two groups. One group was given daily supplements containing folic acid, vitamin D, omega-3 fish oils, zinc, and selenium. The other half of the participants took a placebo pill.
At the same time, half of the participants were randomly selected to receive counseling and were encouraged to change their eating habits, such as limiting snacking and following a Mediterranean-style diet.
After one year, the researchers say they could find no evidence the supplements performed any better at preventing depression than the placebo.
At the same time, the counseling alone did little to curb depression from developing. However, those who had attended more sessions and made significant changes to their diet did appear to be less likely to show clinical signs of depression a year later.
“Because depression is such a common problem, finding effective and widely available ways to prevent depression at a population level is an important goal,” said study co-author Ed Watkins, a professor of experimental and applied clinical psychology at the University of Exeter in England.
“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,” concluded Watkins in a university press release.