The Truth About Supplements for Mental Health

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It can be hard following the news on medical research. There could be a million contradictory studies, and translating the science into journalism doesn't always make any of that research easier to put into practice. No wonder so many people gravitate toward unproven solutions for their own health, from crystals to kale smoothies.

This month, an international team of researchers released a new study looking into nutritional supplements marketed toward aiding and maintaining mental health. It's a big deal, with a press release calling it the "world's largest review (a meta-synthesis) of top-tier evidence … [which] examined 33 meta-analyses of randomized control trials and data from 10,951 people with mental health disorders including depression, stress and anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, schizophrenia, and [ADHD]."

You may be bracing yourself, since vitamins and supplements keep being found not to help that much in general. But the news is a little better than that: "Although the majority of nutritional supplements assessed did not significantly improve mental health, the researchers found strong evidence that certain supplements are an effective additional treatment for some mental disorders, supportive of conventional treatment."

This includes things like using omega-3 supplements to diminish major depression and ADHD. Of course, this is not license to self-diagnoses and self-prescribe these supplements; talking to a qualified mental health professional is not a skippable step, nor is following whatever guidance they offer. But we already know that exercise can help with conditions like depression; with further research, we could learn more about what supplements can do for us too.