Depression Is Not Caused by Low Serotonin

As emerges from related studies, over 85%, actually closer to 90%, of the population tends to believe that the reasons behind depression are insufficient to supply of serotonin or some other type of chemical misbalance. That is, depression is considered to have a biochemical cause. This belief leads to quite a lot of people trying to cope with the condition with the help of antidepressants. Meanwhile, it has not been irrefutably proven that it is serotonin that lies at the basis of depression, as was propounded in a Molecular Psychiatry review of completed research on the matter.

This review in Molecular Psychiatry, a very systematic one, argues that, although the research of the “serotonin hypothesis” has been quite extensive, it failed to come up with a tenable confirmation that what causes depression is really a biochemical basis. It should be officially recognized, the review runs on, that regarding serotonin as the established source of depression is not borne out by uncomfortable facts.

With the view of offering comprehensive scrutiny on the subject, the researchers made an immense attempt to cover practically all of the studies there were about links between serotonin and depression. As it turned out, they dug up studies in dozens of thousands which they had to peruse.

What they came up with was that no research succeeded in linking serotonin levels and serotonin breakdown substances with the depression diagnosis in the individuals involved in the scientific experiment.

Further on, the research conducted on serotonin receptors and especially on the serotonin transporter proved to be very inconclusive in terms of evidence supporting the interrelation between depression and the uncommonly high activity of serotonin in the body. Since the serotonin transporter is the target of most antidepressants, it stands to reason to hypothesize that the findings were influenced by antidepressants taken by those involved in the study, the possibility which wasn’t refuted as a matter of fact.

On the other hand, the investigators got busy with studies examining the conditions where participants in hundreds were to follow diets lacking in the amino acid that brought down their serotonin levels, creating serotonin deficiency. This was meant to discover the influence of serotonin deficiency on the development of depression; still, a 2007 meta-analysis and some of the more recent studies failed to incontrovertibly corroborate that low serotonin levels were able to cause depression in healthy participants.

Things were found to be a bit different with a number of individuals who had cases of depression in their family history – these did show some evidence of there being a link. Still, they made only a small percentage of the volunteers, and the conclusion clearly begged more corroboration.

There were wider-spanning studies embracing many thousands of volunteers which have dealt with gene variation involving the serotonin transporter. They unearthed no tangible gene difference between those afflicted by depression and healthy individuals either. Then, these studies took into account any stressful and traumatic life events. In this case it emerged that such experiences played a significant part in persons’ risk of developing depression. The risk grew with the actual amount of stress persons received from life’s traumas.

Given the comprehensive analysis, the review investigators piled up the evidence and stated they found “no support” to link depression with low serotonin levels or inadequate serotonin activity in the body.

Based on this research, we can recapitulate public knowledge about depression. To begin with, depression possesses a heterogeneous nature, expressing itself very differently with each individual for the basic reason that it springs from a multitude of fundamental factors. Following that, it is impossible to offer one consistent treatment which would be efficient for every depressive individual.

Statistics aver that major depression, troubling over 8% of the American population, is registered among this country’s most widespread mental issues.

As the lead investigator accentuated to the press, there is no actual understanding of how antidepressants affect the brain, so people having to labor under misapprehension are not well-equipped to make a decision about undergoing an antidepressant treatment. Could it be enough for a Big Pharma/antidepressant conspiracy theory?

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