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Supplement Attack Threatens Mental Health

Supplement Attack Threatens Mental Health
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Restricting supplement access could cause the mental health crisis to get even worse than it is now. Action Alert!

In 2020, one in five Americans experienced a mental illness, and rates of mental illness are increasing substantially. Evidence links nutrient inadequacies to the development of mental disorders, showing that supplements have a role to play in addressing the mental health crisis. But instead of widely disseminating this and other information about how supplements can benefit mental health, Sen. Dick Durbin and his allies are pushing for policies that will restrict your supplement access and eliminate choices. We cannot let them succeed.

Researchers are learning more and more about the connections between our gut microbiota—that is, the trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that reside in the gastrointestinal tract—and the health of other bodily systems like immune function and mental health. For example, we know that bacteria in the gut both produce and consume neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and GABA; interventions aimed at altering the gut microbiota can also alter neurotransmitter levels. Diet is a key factor that influences the composition of the gut microbiota. What we eat, then, can have profound effects on mental health.

Research has found that several nutrient deficiencies are tied to mental health disorders. The most common nutritional deficiencies observed in mental health patients are omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that are precursors to neurotransmitters. Researchers have linked a decline in consumption of omega-3 fatty acids from fish in most populations to increasing rates of depression; omega-3 fatty acids have been found in epidemiological data and clinical studies to effectively treat depression. Folate, vitamin B12, and magnesium have also been found to decrease depression symptoms.

Supplementing with certain amino acids can be helpful in treating mood disorders including depression because they increase neurotransmitter levels. The neurotransmitter dopamine is made from the amino acid tyrosine and the neurotransmitter serotonin is made from tryptophan. Methionine, another amino acid, helps produce S-adenosylmethionine (SAM), which facilitates the production of neurotransmitters in the brain.

The availability of simple supplements to help with mental health is additionally important because of the dangers of the pharmaceutical alternatives. Most antidepressants and mind-altering drugs come with substantial side effects. These negative effects can cause patients to skip taking their medications, and this noncompliance is associated with higher risk for committing suicide or being institutionalized.

For the reasons we’ve been explaining for the last few weeks, if Sen. Durbin and his allies get the new supplement restrictions they are seeking, it will become much harder to use targeted nutritional strategies to help with mental health struggles. Either the dosages you need won’t be available or the product will get removed from the market entirely.

Mental health struggles impact all of us, but our children are at particular risk. From February to March 2021, emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts were up 51 percent for girls ages 12-17 compared to 2019. Overall in 2020, the percentage of emergency room visits for mental health emergencies rose 24 percent for children aged 5-11 and 31 percent for those aged 12-17 compared with 2019. Is now the time to enact policies that limit access to products that can help?

Action Alert! Write to Congress and tell them to oppose mandatory product registration for supplements. Please send your m message immediately.

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