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Zinc as a Treatment for Depression

Alternative medicine > healthy food

Zinc as a Treatment for Depression


Paul Maher, MD:

I am a physician, though my speciality is in Preventive Medicine, not Psychiatry.  Actually I spent ten  years at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in an office dedicated to getting drugs for rare diseases to market and have worked for a number of years since as a consultant to the pharmaceutical industry, so one thing I am comfortable with is going through medical literature.  A couple weeks ago I decided, why not investigate various alternative health approaches by going through the medical literature and posting video of what is found there, the medical literature is often much more supportive of alternative/micro-nutrient based health interventions than one might suspect from commercial advertisements.

The first topic I decided to take a look at was alternatives/complimentary additions to pharmaceutical anti-depressants.  I chose this for two reasons, 1) unlike the rare diseases I spent much of my career on, depression is a serious and unfortunately common disease and 2) there are well-documented concerns in the medical literature over serious and potentially dangerous side effects of some pharmaceutical anti-depressants especially the SSRIs that have come to light.  Within that broad topic I chose to focus on Zinc's role in depression for my first videos. Each video is about a half hour long and I have the first two of what will be likely a four part series posted now on my "To Your Health" video channel.  While the first one may start a little slow as I have to explain what I am doing and why from there I just go through the medical literature study by study and explain why Zinc would be expected to be helpful in depression from the published evidence we now have available.   If you would like to view these videos

Part I is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Suwc5-obeBU&t=18s
Part II is also now on the channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9RMmowU_x-P3S5HMuCXJ4g

Parts 3 and 4 should be out within a week.

For those who don't have an hour to spend getting the in-depth discussion of the literature the as the kids on the web call if TLDR (Too Long Didn't Read) version is that 1 there is a large and growing body of evidence from the past twenty years that derangements of zinc homeostasis are involved in depression and other mental disorders and a variety of current theories for why this is so, 2) multiple population based studies have found that low blood zinc levels are associated with depression 3) pharmaceutical antidepressants, even in the absence of zinc supplementation lead to higher blood zinc levels when the pharmaceutical treatment is effective. 3) In multiple double blind placebo controlled clinical trials zinc supplements given in conjunction with pharmaceutical anti-depressants both helped overcome treatment resistance and augmented the antidepressant’s beneficial effect. 4) Not only are the findings statistically significant with zinc in depression but also the magnitude of zinc's effect is large, i.e it is not that it does something but is only 1/10th as strong as a conventional anti-depressant, it is showing a pronounced effect.

I am not saying zinc is now the end all be all, we have the cure for depression, I view depression as a bit akin to cancer in that there are multiple pathways that can lead to the same end disease state.  That said, it is well documented now in the literature that zinc is helpful in depression. I suspect in some cases low zinc may be very important to central to depression.

I hope this information is helpful to those suffering with depression.  Please feel free to ask me any questions if I can help clarify anything in the post or videos. 

Here's to your Health!

Paul D. Maher, MD MPH

Very useful information!


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