Posted on: April 12th, 2022

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), a common mental disorder,  is affected by many conditions. Environmental, nutritional, social, and lifestyle factors all contribute to the risk factors of developing MDD.

Recently, nutraceutical research focused on MDD has increased. This is in part because many people who suffer from MDD don’t get relief from typical therapy sessions. People with MDD have been found to fare much better when taking prescription drugs, and non-pharmaceutical approaches are of interest.

Many nutraceutical agents are currently being researched for their effectiveness in dealing with common symptoms of MDD. Before we go into the current research, let’s take a brief look at MDD in general.

What is Major Depressive Disorder?

MDD is a common mental disorder characterized by many different factors that can drastically affect everyday life. Common symptoms of MDD include:

  • Lack of energy
  • Low mood levels (sadness)
  • Lack of pleasure found in previously enjoyable activities
  • Low sex drive
  • General Irritability
  • Low self-esteem
  • Self-harm or frequent suicidal thoughts
  • Change in appetite (both overeating and undereating)
  • Trouble sleeping (oversleeping, under-sleeping, insomnia, etc.)
  • Physical manifestations due to stress (fatigue, aches, digestive problems, headaches, etc.)

There are other signs and symptoms of MDD, which is to say that MDD causes a lot of issues that tens of millions of people deal with every day.

The two most common treatments for MDD are traditional talk therapy and prescription pharmaceuticals. Combinations of talk therapy and pharmaceuticals have also shown effectiveness in treating some cases of MDD.

Nutraceuticals & Major Depressive Disorder

Nutraceutical studies regarding MDD have become more common as scientists have realized the importance of the gastrointestinal (GI) system and the effects it has on everything from autoimmune functions, eating behavior, heart health, and oxidative stress.

Several recent studies have provided information on some potential nutraceutical approaches for issues commonly found in MDD.

Probiotics & Prebiotics

Probiotics & prebiotics affect the gut microbiome by increasing the production of, or introducing various ‘foods’ used by, microbiota to fuel the production of beneficial microbiome profile. Recent studies on the gut microbiome, in general, have provided evidence showing an association between nutritional modulation and neuroimmune & neuroinflammatory diseases.

Other studies have shown connections between the gut microbiome and how we think & feel. The potential of the association between the gut microbiome and cognitive function has led researchers to look at how nutraceuticals may help with MDD.

Scientists have also been studying the effects of nutraceuticals with or without the presence of prescription medications. Gathering data on the levels of nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals, and their interactions, in the body is ongoing research.

Omega 3

Omega 3 supplements tout the benefits of their effects on mood and depression. This is primarily due to a broad look at countries with higher overall fish, particularly oily fish (and therefore omega 3), consumption has a lower prevalence of MDD. While there may be something to look at in this broad connection, no conclusive evidence has been found so far.

Nutraceutical research into omega 3 and MDD has focused on finding a connection between omega 3 consumption and managing MDD. Specifically, diets have been researched, with scientists noting positive associations between being well-fed in general and the effectiveness of potential MDD treatments.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to sleep disorders, specifically poor quality of sleep. Several studies on vitamin D supplementation have shown significant improvements in participants who took vitamin D versus a placebo group.

Vitamin D is also a key vitamin when it comes to healthy brain function. Current research is focusing on monitoring levels of vitamin D in people with MDD and how supplementation may help. The use of vitamin D to help with healthy sleep schedules may also lead to data that can help those with MDD.

Research at Biofortis

Biofortis is dedicated to protecting consumer health throughout the world by delivering a wide range of testing and consultancy services to the food, supplement, and nutrition industries. Biofortis supports this mission in two ways—through clinical trials and sensory and consumer insights testing. We specialize in clinical research targeting foods, ingredients, and dietary supplements that affect body structures, function, and overall health. Contact us with any clinical trial or scientific consulting needs.

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