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New Studies Support Natural Treatments for Depression

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depressed woman holding head

Two new studies provide alternative treatment options for people who suffer from depression but either want to avoid antidepressants or have found antidepressants ineffective. This is especially good news for pregnant women with depression, because antidepressants have been linked to serious birth defects if taken during pregnancy. Around two-thirds of people with depression do not respond to antidepressants, according to BBC News, and these people may benefit from effective natural remedies like eating more tomatoes and exploring cognitive behavioral therapy.

Benefits of Tomatoes

The first study, to be published in the January 2013 issue of the Journal of Affective Disorders, found that consuming two tomatoes a week could naturally treat depression. Researchers examined the health and diet records of 986 older Japanese people. The Japanese Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health and the Japan Arteriosclerosis Prevention Fund paid for the study. The study revealed that for people who ate a tomato every day, depression was reduced by 52 percent, and for people who ate tomatoes two to six times a week, the likelihood of developing depression was decreased by 46 percent. While tomatoes are not necessarily considered a comfort food, they are healthy and contain antioxidants, like lycopene. Lycopene gives tomatoes their rich color, and research shows it may assist in preventing cell damage.

Talk Therapy

The second study found depression symptoms declined in response to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of talking psychotherapy, for around half of the 234 patients evaluated. The research was published in The Lancet and used data gathered over 12 months from 469 British patients who had depression that was resistant to treatment. The researchers discovered that after six months, 46 percent of those receiving CBT in addition to regular treatment reported at least half of their symptoms were reduced. The group that did not receive CBT reported a 22 percent reduction of symptoms. Doctors like Nicola Wiles, from the Centre for Mental Healthy, Addiction and Suicide Research at the University of Bristol, said more studies are needed. "These patients had severe and chronic depression so it is unlikely that one treatment would be effective for everyone," she said. "We need to invest in other research to find alternative treatments for patients whose symptoms have not responded to treatment with antidepressants."

Pregnant Women and Depression

These studies hold promise for pregnant women struggling with depression and looking for natural alternatives to antidepressant drugs, which can cause birth defects and miscarriages. Pregnant women may choose to avoid common antidepressants—like Zoloft, Prozac and Paxil—which are associated with birth defects. These three drugs are all part of the same class of antidepressants, known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given most SSRIs the designation of category C for pregnancy risk, meaning that studies of animals have shown evidence of damaging fetuses. Studies of SSRIs and pregnant women cannot be conducted for ethical reasons.
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