April 15, 2005

Vitamins for Bipolar

While I suspect the claim that vitamins can help for psychiatric disorders (especially for Omega 3 vitamins - a group of vitamins that have had quite a bit of academic research support for helping in brain disorders, from such places as Sheffield University in the UK).

All the research I've seen, however, on things like vitamin C, Niacin, etc. - in treatment of mental illness have all turned out negative (we have some of both the positive and the negative info on the "Other Treatments" web page. Specific information on EMpowerplus and Synergy & Truehope is here.

This month Discover Magazine covers some of this issue in an article titled "Vitamin Cure - Can common nutrients curb violent tendencies and dispel clinical depression?"
I'll find this line of research much more interesting when there is some third party validation in high quality studies done by reputable researchers, and not just some anecodal evidence from a group of pig farmers who look like they could make a lot of money off the whole business, even if nobody is helped.

And, despite their claims that they are not making any money from this $70 bottle of vitamins - if you look at the typical bottle of vitamins I purchase - I'm paying a lot less than $70 month. For that high a price they have to have very good research backing up their extraordinary claims - and they don't (in my view) have that yet.

Also disturbing to me is the fact that given the untested nature of the product, and that they seem to be encouraging people to go off their well-tested and proven medications. This would seem to open them up to a high risk of legal action if - as frequently happens when people go off their medications - something bad happens to a person who follows their directions. Of course, the company is based in Canada, so I suspect that it could be a difficult and expensive approach to seeking damages in such a hypothetical case.

The article ends by saying:

"Both scientists have had a tough time securing government support for their psychiatric research. EMPowerplus has yet to be approved for sale in Canada, and Health Canada, the agency that regulates food and drugs in that country, has sued Truehope for advertising the product to Canadians who might wish to import it. "The manufacturer has not provided us with scientific evidence that the drug is safe and effective," says Jirina Vlk, a spokeswoman for the agency. Hardy and Stephan, in turn, have sued Health Canada for blocking shipments at the border. Health Canada initially denied Kaplan permission to pursue a randomized study of the supplement in 100 bipolar patients, although Kaplan already had funding from the Alberta government. That decision was reversed in 2004, after the agency established a new division dedicated to overseeing supplements and natural health products.

Meanwhile in the United States, Popper and Kaplan recently secured approval ... to conduct an even larger clinical study of the supplement. Other scientists think this is long overdue. "It's something that needs to be investigated," says L. Eugene Arnold, a psychiatrist at Ohio State University who plans to explore the use of zinc to treat ADHD."

See the Full article for more information.


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