Staying Healthy Newsletter - <em>In the News:</em> Fighting Depression, Multivitamins and Breast Cancer
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In the News: Fighting Depression, Multivitamins and Breast Cancer

Depression is a Serious, Worldwide Problem

We have all experienced the everyday mood fluctuations and occasional blues that life can bring. But did you know that about 1 in 6 of us may also experience an episode of real depression during our lifetime? Depression – characterized by overwhelming sadness and hopelessness – affects more than 350 million people worldwide, and is responsible for a good portion of the global burden of disease according to the World Health Organization.

While antidepressant drugs are usually the first line of defense for depression, they don’t work adequately for more than half of patients. Further, many people would like to work with their health care professional to explore additional, non-drug treatment options for depression. Here are two new studies that illuminate some supplementary tools that may help in dealing with this disorder.

Omega-3s Linked to Lower Risk of Depression

Led by a National Institutes of Aging researcher, an investigative team examined whether there was an association between omega-3 intakes and symptoms of depression in over 1,700 U.S. adults using a 20-item depression rating scale (CES-D). Elevated depressive symptoms were seen in about 26% of women and 18% of men.

In this study (1), the highest intakes of omega-3s were associated with a significant 49% reduction in risk of elevated depressive symptoms for women. Evidence that depressive symptoms are inversely related to omega-3 fatty acids is growing, and the results of this study support a protective effect of the omega-3s against these symptoms, at least in women.

More Tools to Help Fight Depression

Results from a new study (2) conducted in the U.K. suggest that counseling and acupuncture hold significant promise in treating depression. This randomized trial is the first to rigorously assess the impact of acupuncture and counseling for patients who continue to experience depression in a primary care setting.

The researchers recruited 755 patients who had seen their primary care doctor for depression in the last 5 years, and who scored moderate-to-severe on a depression rating scale (BDI-II). The participants were randomly assigned to receive up to 12 weekly sessions of acupuncture plus usual care, 12 weekly sessions of counseling plus usual care, or usual care alone.

 ‘Usual care’, which included antidepressants, was available according to need and monitored in all three groups. Most of the patients had experienced recurring bouts of depression, with 76% having had 4 or more episodes.

Compared to usual care alone, those in the counseling and acupuncture groups had significantly improved scores at 3 and 6 months. For those who face recurring depression, both of these interventions alongside usual care may help them cope better.

Multis & Better Survival of Breast Cancer

Women who were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during their participation in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) trial were the focus of a new analysis3.
Of the 7,700+ women who developed the disease (among the 161,608 postmenopausal women in the WHI), about 38% were taking multivitamin and mineral supplements. The vast majority of them reported using multis before their diagnosis.

The researchers found that the risk of dying from invasive breast cancer was 30% lower among those who used multis vs non-users. The association was strong, and was seen even after accounting for other factors that could have affected the outcome. While the findings require confirmation, they suggest that multi supplements may help older women better survive this disease.

References

  1. Beydoun MA, et al. Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intakes Are Inversely Related to Elevated Depressive Symptoms among United States Women. J Nutr Sep 4, 2013 [Epub ahead of print].
  2. MacPherson H, et al. Acupuncture and counseling for depression in primary care: A randomized controlled trial. PLoS Med 10:e1001518, Sept, 2013.
  3. Wassertheil-Smoller S, et al. Multivitamin and mineral use and breast cancer mortality in older women with invasive breast cancer in the women's health initiative. Breast Cancer Res Treat Oct 9, 2013 [Epub ahead of print].
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