Vitamin therapies may help treat root causes, providing new hope against rising suicide rates.
A glimmer of hope has emerged from a gloomy crisis. As suicide rates have soared to unprecedented levels across the United States, researchers at the University of California–San Diego (UC San Diego) have uncovered a potential breakthrough: certain compounds in the blood that can identify those at highest risk.
Blood Test Reveals Signs of Suicidal Thoughts
The United States faces a suicide crisis, with 2022 seeing record-high suicide mortality. Rates have risen by 36 percent between 2000 and 2021. In 2021, a suicide was reported every 11 minutes. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for those aged 10 to 34, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD) include persistent depressed mood (at least two weeks), loss of interest in activities, sleep/eating issues, low energy, poor concentration, and low self-worth. Women and young adults aged 18 to 25 are most commonly affected.
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the primary molecule cells use to store energy. Inside cells, ATP powers normal functions. But having ATP outside cells signals there is damage or stress. This triggers protective reactions to contain the potential threat, according to Dr. Robert Naviaux, a co-author of the study.
The researchers theorize that suicide attempts could stem from an overwhelming biological drive at the cellular level to stop stress that has become intolerable.
Nutrient Deficiencies Linked to Depression
Blood analysis revealed study participants with MDD had nutritional deficiencies, including deficiency in the antioxidants CoQ10 and lutein, carnitine, which helps turn fat into energy, and folate (vitamin B9). As some nutrients are available in supplements, researchers can explore individualized treatment regimens to address the metabolic issues linked to depression.
However, supplements are not cures. “None of these metabolites are a magic bullet that will completely reverse somebody’s depression,” Dr. Naviaux said in a press release. However, doctors may be able to nudge metabolism in the right direction to help patients respond better to therapies. In suicidal individuals, that could be enough to prevent them from attempting, he added.
Connections exist between depression and diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Targeting metabolic factors offers hope of improving outcomes across conditions that increase depression risk.
Diet to Prevent Deficiencies Linked to Depression
Increasing intake of key nutrients like folate could help reduce depression risk, according to Dr. Naviaux’s team. Additionally, vitamin B12 shows promise for relieving depressive symptoms. A 2020 review of studies found that taking B12 early on may delay depression onset and improve antidepressant efficacy.
An estimated 15 percent of the population lives with a B12 deficiency, Emily Feivor, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Northwell Long Island Jewish Forest Hills in New York, told The Epoch Times. “Since B12 is only found naturally in animal products, people who do not eat meat, fish, poultry, or dairy are at risk of becoming deficient,” she added, noting that supplements can restore healthy levels.
Carnitine deficiencies are commonly associated with a genetic disorder but can also occur in people whose diet is insufficient in animal products. Symptoms include muscle weakness, fatigue, irritability, hypoglycemia, and shortness of breath or swelling in severe cases when the heart is affected. To maintain adequate carnitine, eating meat, fish, dairy, and poultry regularly is recommended, according to Ms. Feivor.
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