Nutrient, Supplement And Vitamin Treatments

Americans spend billions of dollars each year on a variety of supplements, and vitamins. The quality, and quantity of scientific research varies greatly for supplements, and therefore contributes to patient, and doctor uncertainty about using these treatments.  There is incomplete knowledge about active ingredients, often no standardization, different degrees of purity, and variations in plant growing conditions and parts that are used.  Because they are not always tested for manufacturing consistency, the composition may vary considerably between lots.  The Food and Drug Administration expects companies to test their products for safety, but not for effectiveness, and purity.  The Food and Drug Administration likewise, most often regulates these supplements as foods not drugs.    Keep in mind, however, that lack of clinical research does not mean these items lack potential benefit. Many of these treatments have been used for years in large human populations of all ages.

In contrast, in many new medication development studies, patients are carefully selected, and do not have significant medical conditions that may complicate a drug’s effectiveness, and safety. Some of these studies are conducted for only six weeks, and therefore yield little information about long-term side-effects.

Below are several supplements and vitamins used in the treatment of psychiatric conditions:

  • L-methylfolate (Deplin): helpful in treating depressed patients
  • Zinc: may be helpful in depressed and anxious patients
  • S-adenesylmethionine (SAMe): helpful in treating depressed patients
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: helpful in mood disorders
  • N-acetylcysteine (NAC): may be helpful in some mood disorders
  • St. John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum): helpful in mild depressions
  • Vitamin B12, Folate, and Thiamine: may be helpful in mood disorders
  • Melatonin: helpful in some sleep disorders
  • Rhodiola: may be helpful in reducing stress reactions
  • 7-keto DHEA: may be helpful in post-traumatic stress disorders
  • Valerian: may be helpful in some sleep disorders
  • Kava: may be helpful in some sleep disorders and anxiety and stress
  • 5-Hydroxy-L-Tryptophan: may be helpful in some sleep disorders
  • Magnesium: helpful in some sleep disorders
  • Ginkgo Biloba: may slow down cognitive decline in dementia
  • Citicoline: may provide neurocognitive protection and cognitive enhancement
  • Chromium: may be helpful in some atypical depression and binge eating
  • Free and Easy Wanderer Plus (Chinese polyherbal preparation): may be helpful in treating depressed patients
  • Stablon: may be helpful in treating depressed patients
  • Kudzu: may be helpful in some alcohol use disorders
  • Ashwagandha: may be helpful in some anxiety, stress, and sleep disorders
  • Lavender: may be helpful in some anxiety, stress, and sleep disorders

Caution should be used when taking supplements, and vitamins. “Natural” does not always mean harmless. If these products are labeled a “food” or “nutrient”, their clinical effectiveness does not have to be proven. There is often little, or no regulation of the methods production, or quality of supplements. Sometimes popular supplements have been significantly diluted with fillers like rice, soybean, or wheat. Likewise, the difference between the benefits of a naturally occurring supplement, and its large scale commercially produced form, is rarely demonstrated. Finally, there are not many well designed human treatment trials with supplements, and vitamins for psychiatric conditions, and few of these studies have been published in traditional medical journals.

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