Food and Behaviour Research

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14 February 2015 - brisbanetimes - Scientists seeing 'dramatic improvements' in depression pill tests

Jorge Branco

Researchers in Brisbane are testing a pill they hope will have a significant effect on treating the depression as many as one in seven Australians will experience in their lifetimes.

University of Queensland and University of Melbourne scientists have combined several nutrients shown individually to help treat the condition in the hope they will work even more effectively together.

Lead researcher Dr Jerome Sarris said the drug combination was designed to be taken in addition to existing antidepressant medication.

He said the advantage of using a combination of nutrients as "add-ons" was that they were able to target a range of the underlying causes of depression.

"With depression medication usually they'll target one particular brain-chemical pathway such as say serotonin," he said.

"With what we know of depression there's a range of underlying factors that may cause depression biologically.

"The good thing about these nutrients is they work on a range of these pathways."

Scientists at the two universities have been testing the combination of folic acid, omega-3, zinc and other nutrients for about a year but won't know the results for another 18 months.

For the main study they'll need another 120-odd participants in Brisbane across that period. Volunteers must be taking anti-depressants but still experiencing some form of depression.

While continuing to take their normal medication the participants will be split into three groups with one taking the combination pill, one taking just one of the beneficial nutrients and the rest taking a placebo.

Dr Sarris said some volunteers had shown "dramatic improvements" but it was too early to claim success. That's because the trials are double blinded, meaning neither the researchers nor the patients know which group they are in to protect the integrity of the experiments.