Single molecule deficiency could mean severe and treatment-resistant depression

Avatar By Tyler MacDonald | 1 year ago

Researchers have determined that people with severe and treatment-resistant depression have low levels of acetyl-L-carnitine, which is naturally produced in the body. It it also available as a nutritional supplement in many stores.

Although the data is built from extensive animal research, it is the first solid indication of the potential connection between acetyl-L-carnitine levels and depression in humans.

Natalie Rasgon fromt Stanford University School of Medicine described the results as “an exciting addition to our understanding of the mechanisms of depressive illness.”

“As a clinical psychiatrist, I have treated many people with this disorder in my practice,” she said.

Also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, this mental health issue is the most common mood disorder in the world, with approximately 8 to 10 percent of the general population affected at any time.

“It’s the No. 1 reason for absenteeism at work, and one of the leading causes of suicide,” Rasgon said. “Worse, current pharmacological treatments are effective for only about 50 percent of the people for whom they’re prescribed. And they have numerous side effects, often decreasing long term compliance.”

However, this doesn’t mean you should run to the store and purchase acetyl-L-carnitine, as many of these products are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Not only that, but many questions remain to be answered – hopefully by future research.

“We’ve identified an important new biomarker of major depression disorder,” Rasgon said. “We didn’t test whether supplementing with that substance could actually improve patients’ symptoms. What’s the appropriate dose, frequency, duration? We need to answer many questions before proceeding with recommendations, yet. This is the first step toward developing that knowledge, which will require large-scale, carefully controlled clinical trials.”

The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.