Multivitamins do not help stave off depression but lifestyle coaching may work

A new study has contradicted the existing understanding that taking daily nutritional supplements may help to prevent depression. The research instead suggests that lifestyle coaching to improve eating behavior and diet may be a more effective approach.

Person holding up nutritional supplementFotoHelin | Shutterstock

As recently reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the “MooDFOOD” trial involved more than 1,000 individuals across the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, and Germany.

All participants had been identified as at risk for depression but had not experienced any full-blown episodes of depression in the previous six months. All individuals were overweight or obese (BMI of more than 25), a factor that is thought to increase the increased risk of depression.

The participants were randomly assigned to one of four regimens. One group received a multivitamin that contained folic acid, omega-3, zinc, selenium and vitamin D, while another group received a placebo.

A third group received the multivitamin, as well as behavioral therapy to help improve their diet and a fourth group received the therapy, but a placebo instead of the multivitamin. The therapy involved strategies designed to manage low mood, to reduce snacking behavior and to encourage a Mediterranean-style diet.

Over the course of one year, 10% (105) of the participants developed depression. The number of people who became depressed did not differ between any of the groups, indicating that the multivitamin made no difference to depression risk.

This trial convincingly demonstrates that nutritional supplements do not help to prevent depression.”

Professor Ed Watkins, Study Author

Behavioral therapy also did not seem to make a difference, although there was some evidence to suggest it prevented depression if participants attended the recommended number of sessions, which was eight out of 21.

This suggests that lifestyle coaching is only successful if participants receive a certain "dose" of therapy and are able to then adjust their dietary behaviors and diet.

"There was a suggestion that changing food-related behavior and diet may help to prevent depression, but this requires further investigation," concludes Watkins.

Sally Robertson

Written by

Sally Robertson

Sally has a Bachelor's Degree in Biomedical Sciences (B.Sc.). She is a specialist in reviewing and summarising the latest findings across all areas of medicine covered in major, high-impact, world-leading international medical journals, international press conferences and bulletins from governmental agencies and regulatory bodies. At News-Medical, Sally generates daily news features, life science articles and interview coverage.

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