The evidence for 'psychobiotics' in mental health treatment


  • Dawn O'Shea
  • Univadis Medical News
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An international group has published the findings of the world’s largest ever evidence review of the effects of nutritional supplements in mental health disorders.

The study appraised 33 meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials reporting on the efficacy and safety of nutrient supplements in common and severe mental disorders (n=10,951)

Although the majority of supplements assessed did not significantly improve mental health, the researchers found strong evidence that certain supplements are an effective additional treatment for some disorders.

The strongest evidence was found for polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) - particularly eicosapentaenoic acid - as an adjunctive treatment for depression. Emerging evidence also suggested that PUFAs may be beneficial for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), whereas there was no evidence for schizophrenia.

Folate-based supplements were widely researched as adjunctive treatments for depression and schizophrenia, with positive evidence for high-dose methylfolate in major depressive disorder. There was emergent evidence for N-acetylcysteine as an adjunctive treatment in mood disorders and schizophrenia.

There was a lack of compelling evidence supporting the use of vitamins (such as E, C, or D) and minerals (zinc and magnesium) for any mental disorder.

All supplements had good safety profiles, with no evidence of serious adverse effects or contraindications with psychiatric medications.