Do supplements work for anxiety?
Do supplements work for depression?
“GOOD NUTRITION IS VITAL FOR BUILDING UP MENTAL RESILIENCE IN TRYING TIMES. THERE ARE ESSENTIAL MOOD-BOOSTING VITAMINS AND MINERALS THAT YOU CAN HAVE IN YOUR MENTAL HEALTH TOOL KIT ” - PSYCHOLOGIST EVELYN MONTGOMERY
Is there any evidence that taking supplements for low mood or anxiety can make you feel better?
It's not surprising that many people are interested in whether taking a simple supplement could make them feel better mentally, says dietician Alexia Dempsey, spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association.
"I think people are really desperate to try to find answers about what they can do for themselves, particularly when there are often such long waiting lists for therapy.”
Several studies do link mental health conditions with nutrition, so it makes sense that supplementation could potentially improve someone's mood.
"Research has shown links between mental health disorders and nutrition - most commonly, in terms of nutritional deficiencies, such as omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and certain amino acids," adds GP Dr Payal Mehta from the London Doctors Clinic.
But is there any evidence that a supplement that you can purchase without consulting a health professional can actually boost your mood?
There are many studies which have looked into the benefit of nutrient supplementation in people with mental health problems. But until recently, no one had really unpacked it all to provide a clear overview. Researchers at NICM Health Research Institute, University of Manchester and Western Sydney University set out to change this.
They examined 33 studies and data from over ten thousand people with mental health problems such as depression, bipolar disorder and ADHD to determine whether supplements really could make a difference. The meta-review is published in World Psychiatry.
The group found the strongest evidence was seen for methylfolate, Vitamin D and omega-3 supplements for reducing symptoms of depression.
Positive overall effects were seen with a high‐dose (15 mg/day) of methylfolate. Methylfolate is readily absorbed, overcoming any genetic predispositions towards folic acid malabsorption, and successfully crossing the blood‐brain barrier.
There is emerging evidence concerning positive effects for vitamin D supplementation in major depression and that probiotics may be beneficial for those with a clinical diagnosis of depression.
Amino acids, especially Theanine, are now emerging as promising treatments in mental disorders. Magnesium and amino acids showed positive affects on people with anxiety.
Best supplements for anxiety: Seven supplements proven to alleviate symptoms.
Anxiety, which afflicts millions of people in the UK, can be hard to manage and can affect your professional and personal life. Addressing the mental health condition depends on the underlying cause but promising evidence suggests that some people may find taking certain supplements may alleviate symptoms.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating anxiety and different approaches will work depending on the nature and severity of your condition.
While psychological treatments and medication are the most common forms of treatment, emerging evidence suggests taking certain supplements may help too.
Here are 7 supplements shown to ease anxiety:
- Vitamin B: Methylfolate
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin C
Overall, people from the general population who suffer from mood and anxiety problems may benefit from improved nutritional status achieved with nutritional supplements .
Supplementation of B Vitamins, Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and zinc showed a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms in young adults (18-24 years old).
Our minds have a lot to deal with and that's even before we get into the uncertainty of the current Covid-19 health crisis. According to research by the Health Survey for England approximately one in four of us in the UK will experience a mental health problem in any given year and experts are predicting numbers will rise in response to lockdown and the effects of Covid-19.
There's a lot we can do to look after our mental health and nutrition is one of the frontline ways we can support ourselves, to help build-up not just physical immunity but also our psychological immunity.
Taking supplements that have been shown to support the mind are also a good way to help boost psychological immunity as chronic stress and traumatic experiences can deplete important vitamins and minerals.
The links between diet and mood are well documented and there are many key nutrients that play a role in maintaining energy levels and reducing anxiety and the risk of depression, but it's not always easy to eat well.
Low mood and poor mental health can take their toll on the food choices you make, and this can leave gaps in your diet. This is where the sensible use of supplements can be really helpful.
WHICH SUPPLEMENTS TO TAKE FOR MENTAL HEALTH?
1. B VITAMINS: THE BRAIN ENERGISERS
B vitamins support the nervous system and are a key to brain health. They are essential for energy production in cells, including brain cells, where they help make neurotransmitters (the brain’s messenger chemicals). Methylated forms of B vitamins are a particularly powerful tool to help you brain function helping to lift depression and ease anxiety.
They can help you feel less tired too, as well as help your memory and altogether make you feel like you have more clarity.
When you're stressed and anxious, your B vitamins can become rapidly depleted, which can even make your stress symptoms worse. Lack of B vitamins can lead to anxiety and irritability. All the more reason to keep your levels healthy.
What the research says: Women with low levels of vitamin B1 (thiamin) are less likely to feel composed and confident and more likely to be depressed than those with higher levels, according to researchers. When they increased their intake of vitamin B1, however, they reported a marked improvement in mood and self-confidence as their thiamin levels increased. Other studies show that correcting low levels of vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B12 has beneficial effects on well-being, self-confidence and mood.
2. MAGNESIUM: THE SLEEP MINERAL
A good night’s sleep goes a long way to promoting good mental health and mood during the day. Magnesium is involved in the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls our sleep cycle. It's a mineral that's essential for energy metabolism, reducing tiredness and fatigue and is also vital for the normal functioning of the nervous system and psychological health.
Like B vitamins, magnesium is more rapidly depleted during times of stress and anxiety creating a vicious cycle - low levels of magnesium also exacerbate these feelings. During times of stress and anxiety, a magnesium supplement may be useful to balance mood and mental wellbeing.
If you suffer from PMS, magnesium is your friend. Magnesium levels appear to be significantly lower in women struggling with their menstrual cycle. Taking magnesium supplements may also help to relieve premenstrual mood changes.
3. PROBIOTICS: YOUR GUT CAN LIFT YOUR MOOD
You probably know that probiotics are live bacteria that have beneficial effects on digestive health and general immunity. More recent research suggests they may also influence our psychological health, the gut-brain axis.
Although research is in its early stages, probiotic bacteria are now believed to have indirect effects on our brain by regulating the production of serotonin, GABA and dopamine. Serotonin helps to lift mood and improve anxiety and depression. As much as 95 per cent of our serotonin is made within the lining of our digestive tract.
4. 5-HTP: THE SLEEPY MOOD ENHANCER
5-Hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP, is found naturally in the body and can be converted into serotonin. It helps to regulate mood and appetite as well as being part of the melatonin pathway, which helps to regulate the sleep cycle.
5-HTP appears to improve the structure of your sleep by extending the amount of time you spend in REM sleep in which your brain processes memories. Getting sufficient REM sleep is essential for feeling rejuvenated during the day which will inevitably impact on your mental state and ability to perform your daily tasks.
Several studies show that 5-HTP supplements have a positive effect on low mood and are better than placebo in treating depression, with benefits usually occurring within two weeks
One study, involving 60 people with a first episode of depression, showed that is was almost as good as prescription antidepressants. It compared the effects of 5-HTP with the prescribed antidepressant drug, fluoxetine, for eight weeks. Both groups showed a significant and nearly equal improvement in depression, starting from the second week of treatment and increasing over the eight weeks. By the end of the study, 73 per cent of those taking 5-HTP and 80 per cent taking fluoxetine felt significantly better.
5 + 6. VITAMIN D + OMEGA 3: THE MOOD-BOOSTING ESSENTIALS
Omega-3 oils and vitamin D work hand in hand to optimise serotonin (good mood neurotransmitter) levels in the brain.
Serotonin needs an amino acid, called tryptophan to convert it to a usable form in the brain. That conversion is activated by vitamin D.
Once serotonin is made, EPA (one of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids found in omega 3 oils) helps brain cells release it into their communication gaps to stimulate surrounding brain cells. Once serotonin arrives at a new brain cell, the presence of another long-chain omega-3 oil, DHA, helps the serotonin message to be received. Good levels of vitamin D and both omega-3s are therefore needed for optimum brain function.
Researchers have suggested that lack of vitamin D, EPA or DHA contributes to a number of psychiatric disorders and depression such as SAD (Seasonally Affective Disorder). Clinical trials suggest that omega-3 oils can improve depression, prolong periods of remission from depressive episodes and improve the short-term course of the illness in those affected.
How much omega 3 do you need to take to get a beneficial anti-depressive effect? Look for 650mg total DHA and EPA per day. Adding omega 3 oils (2g per day) to usual drug treatment for depression has also been shown to significantly improve symptoms within two weeks, compared with placebo.
7. VITAMIN C
Studies have shown a significant reduction in anxiety and depression when sufficient levels of C were taken, either by diet or supplements. One study, , published in a 2018 issue of the journal Antioxidants, assessed vitamin C levels among men aged 18-35 years. It noted that “high vitamin C status may be associated with improved overall mood in young adult males.” However, vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. Therefore, the body doesn’t store this vitamin. So be sure to take it regularly to ensure regular healthy levels, especially in the summer or if you are doing lots of exercise. Doing so may boost your mood and result in a host of other health benefits.
Supplements do have a role to play in maintaining overall health and especially people who do not manage to eat a well-balanced diet.
Exploring the use of supplements to complement your mood and overall health regime may be a good option but do check with your doctor if you are on any SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, SSRI are antidepressants) or other medications.
And look for supplements that are made to GMP (good manufacturing practice) and they are made to high pharmaceutical standards. Simply put, what it says is on the packet is actually in the product you are taking.
“I spoke to Evelyn and was keen to start taking ‘Mood Me’ as I felt depressed, anxious, tired all the time & needed a hormone boost after my father passing away and being in a stagnant relationship. I started taking 2 tables of ‘Mood Me’ every day, after about 3 weeks I was noticing a difference, I felt less stressed and I was sleeping better and I felt my black cloud was slowly lifting. In 2020, I left my partner 4 weeks before the pandemic & I changed to ‘Calm Me’, I was feeling really anxious but less depressed. I went to see my GP and I took the ingredients of ‘Calm Me’ to my Doctor he said ‘these are as good as antidepressants’ I now take, one a day and sometimes two if I feel anxious about a meeting and especially before my father’s anniversary. I feel less anxious, happier in myself, I’m more relaxed and my black cloud is in the far distance! Trust me they really work, give them ago!” - Karley M
If you would like to see a full list of all the science + research behind 360ME click here.
 The efficacy and safety of nutrient supplements in the treatment of mental disorders: a meta‐review of meta‐analyses of randomized controlled trials: J World Psychiatry Ass 2019, 18(3)
 Nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders: systematic review: Nutr J. 2010; 9: 42
 The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress—A Systematic Review
 The effects of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety
 L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses Psychol. 2007 Jan;74(1):39-45.
 Neurobiological effects of the green tea constituent theanine and its potential role in the treatment of psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. Neurosci. 2014 Jul;17(4):145-55
 Glutamine has antidepressive effects through increments of glutamate and glutamine levels and glutamatergic activity in the medial prefrontal cortex: J Neuropharmacology. 2018 Dec;143:143-152
 Treatment Considerations for Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Nutrients and herbs to change the course of this illness
 Correlation between Depression and Anxiety and the Level of Vitamin B12 in Patients with Depression and Anxiety and Healthy Controls: Journal of Biomedical and Clinical Research | Volume 10: Issue 2
 Effects of Multivitamin-Mineral Supplementation on Mental Health Among Young Adults: Curr Dev Nutr. 2019 Jun; 3(Suppl 1)
 Database Analysis of Depression and Anxiety in a Community Sample—Response to a Micronutrient Intervention: Nutrients 2018, 10(2), 152
 Top 10 evidence based supplements for anxiety
 Vitamin C