Zinc May Increase Antidepressant Therapy Effectiveness
People suffering from depression may experience better results from
antidepressant medications by supplementing with zinc, reports a
preliminary study in the Polish Journal of Pharmacology (2003;55:1143-7).
Healthnotes Newswire (March 4, 2004)
Almost 10% of American adults experience some form of depression. The many
types of recognized depression include major depression (a severely
disabling form), bipolar disorder (sometimes called manic-depressive
illness), and a milder form of depression (called dysthymia). Depression
may manifest as feelings of sadness, worthlessness, inappropriate guilt, or
anxiety; decreased pleasure in activities; excessive weight loss or gain;
insomnia or oversleeping; fatigue; an inability to concentrate; and
thoughts or plans of suicide. The ability to function normally at work and
at home may be compromised during periods of depression.
Prescription medications used to treat depression (such as citalopram
[CelexaT] and fluoxetine [ProzacT]) can cause undesirable side effects
including changes in sexual function, dry mouth, constipation, headaches,
anxiety, and drowsiness.
The new study evaluated the effect of zinc supplementation in people with
major depression who were also taking antidepressant medications. Twelve
people aged 25 to 57 years were randomly assigned to take one of the
following for 12 weeks: (1) 25 mg of zinc per day plus an antidepressant
medication, or (2) placebo plus an antidepressant medication. The response
to treatment was assessed by using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale and
the Beck Depression Inventory before the trial and at 2, 6, and 12 weeks.
Both groups had an improvement in depressive symptoms; however, the
zinc-supplemented group showed a statistically significant improvement
compared with the placebo group at 6 and 12 weeks.
Zinc is an essential nutrient in the human body that affects the normal
functioning of the immune and reproductive systems. It aids in wound
healing; functions as an antioxidant, protecting cells from free-radical
damage; and also plays a part in the healthy functioning of the brain. Low
levels of zinc have been tied to major depressive disorder, and
antidepressant therapy for this condition causes blood zinc levels to rise.
One study investigated the combination of zinc and antidepressants in
animals; when antidepressants were administered at dosages too low to be
effective, the addition of small amounts zinc combined to exert an
This is the first human study to demonstrate the ability of zinc to enhance
the action of prescription antidepressant medications. Other natural
substances that have been shown to benefit depression sufferers include
folic acid, DHEA, eicosapentaenoic acid (a fatty acid found in fish oil),
and St. John's wort.
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