Saturday, January 26, 2008

SAD or Depressed? Antidepressants Are Out, Sunlight Is In!

At this time of year here in the northern hemisphere, many of us experience feelings of depression. What your grandmother called "winter-doldrums" are now known as Seasonal Affective Disorder – SAD – which affects millions of people in the winter. I happen to be one of them.

Many of you believe that antidepressants will get you through this SAD period, but that is a dangerous route to take, especially with the findings on the connection of antidepressants to suicide that started with children, was extended to young adults, and is now being studied in all adults regardless of age.

Just a few days ago, a study was published on the pro-drug bias found in pharmaceutical companies published studies on the effectiveness of antidepressant drugs. It revealed that most of the negative studies performed on antidepressants were never published. It also revealed that of the published studies with negative results, many were given a positive spin. In other words, they lied or were purposely misleading making the drug appear to be effective when it wasn't.

On the effectiveness of antidepressants, one doctor had this to say:

"It's not that the drugs are ineffective, but that the public's perception is that they are more effective than they are [something the authors also point out]," said Dr. Julio Licinio, chairman of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "The data was good enough for the drugs to get approval."


However, another doctor was more realistic:

In a separate statement, [Dr. Erick] Turner said that:

"Selective publication can lead doctors and patients to believe drugs are more effective than they really are, which can influence prescribing decisions."

"The claim being made in this study is not that the drugs are ineffective but that the view that is presented in the medical literature makes them out to be more effective than they really are (based on the reasonable assumption that the FDA-registered versions are closer to the "truth")."

Consider this from that same page: "Studies viewed by the FDA as having a negative outcome were, except in 3 cases, either not published (22 studies), or published in such a way that the outcome was presented as positive (11 studies). These 33 studies accounted for a total of 5,212 participants."


So, one-third of the studies that had a negative outcome were presented as positive….one of every three!

"Collectively, according to the published literature, it appeared that 94 per cent of the trials conducted were positive. This contrasted sharply with the FDA view, which showed that only 51 per cent of the trials were positive."

Perhaps Dr Licinio should have a conversation with Dr Turner. Dr Licinio seems to want to place the burden of knowledge on the public (you and me) while at the same time acknowledging that the reports showing the lack of effectiveness of the drugs were never published.

Where did the public get this perception that antidepressants are more effective than they are? As well as the biased studies published, could it possibly be the message that is pounded into people's brains as they watch television every night?

Turner also said: "Selective reporting of clinical trial results may have adverse consequences for researchers, study participants, health care professionals, and patients."

So, why don't the doctors, at least, get the real story? Surely they have access to the results of all these clinical studies.

Turner's group pointed out "…it is difficult to study 'selective publication' primarily because data from unpublished trials is hard to locate. 'Pharmaceutical companies have responded to the heat,' Turner said. '[But] it's hidden under our very noses.' For example, as a result of a 2004 lawsuit, GlaxoSmithKline initiated a clinical trial registry. 'I have yet to speak to a colleague who knew about that,' Turner said, adding that physicians generally look to peer-reviewed journals for guidance.

It seems that making the information available and letting people know it is available is two different things. Smells like a sleight-of-hand trick to me….you look over there, while I "make magic" over here.

Furthermore, Dr. Adil Shamoo had this to say:

"This [study on the bias in publishing the results of drug trials] is, in my opinion, an excellent paper and what it shows is really consistent with the past five years," said Adil Shamoo, founder of Citizens for Responsible Care and Research and a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. "Publications have indicated that [the] industry basically has a tendency to bias publications towards positive results and to not publish negative results."

"Research is not regulated by anyone, so therefore they don't have to submit to anyone, and that's really the key," Shamoo added. "It's a systemic failure."

Let me run that by you again in case you were as surprised by it as I was: "Research is not regulated by anyone, so therefore they don't have to submit to anyone…"

That's a pretty shocking revelation, isn't it?! No one regulates the research. That makes me skeptical of the whole process, from clinical trial to approval. Maybe that's why it's not surprising that, in spite of the dangers, the sales of SSRI-type antidepressants rose 32% in the four years from 2000 to 2004. Sales figures were up to $10.9 billion.

(Why isn't anyone asking why antidepressant use increased 32% in just four years? Why isn't anyone asking why approximately 118 million antidepressant prescriptions were written in 2005 for a population of about 300 million people? That's an average of one antidepressant prescription for every three people in the United States!)

It makes you wonder what other products are on the market that don't deliver what is promised or work the way they are advertised, but have been "proven safe and effective" through biased reporting of clinical studies. (Several artificial sweeteners come to mind, but this article is about antidepressants and depression.)

If the effectiveness of antidepressants is questionable (not to mention they may be linked to low blood pressure, dizziness, and higher risk of bone fractures because they may reduce bone size and strength ), is there another solution to depression and SAD?

Of course! It's one which helps to build strong bones as well as prevent cancer: Sunlight. Specifically, it is the Vitamin D that your body makes when you expose your skin to sunlight

According to Dr. Oz in an appearance on the "Oprah" show, it only takes an average of fifteen minutes of daily sunlight on your bare skin (that is, exposed skin free of sun-blocking products) to enable your body to make the proper amount of Vitamin D.

Research has shown that the common thread among people suffering chronic conditions like depression, or osteoporosis, or arthritis, or even diabetes is that they are severely deficient in Vitamin D. Many doctors believe that 30% to 80% of Americans are Vitamin D deficient. No wonder chronic illnesses are running rampant. Your body needs it to absorb and properly utilize calcium. It is used in regulating insulin secretion by the pancreas, a problem related to diabetes. It is also a factor in regulating cell growth which could explain the relationship between low levels of vitamin D and several types of cancer.

Even when you do spend time in the sunlight, you sabotage the natural workings of your body by slathering on chemical sun-blocking products that often include cancer-causing ingredients as you block the very thing you need to protect yourself from cancer as well as depression, and many other chronic conditions. You need the UV rays of sunlight on your skin in order to make Vitamin D!

Due to the lack of opportunities to absorb sunlight in the winter, taking a supplement may help – if it is the proper type of Vitamin D – but the typical multi-vitamin pill containing Vitamin D delivers a woefully inadequate amount for your health and wellbeing. (My own brand of vitamin contains 400 IUs and calls this 100% of the daily requirement. 400 IUs is less than half of what a person needs to be healthy! The average needed for health, as reported by Dr. Holick (author of The UV Advantage), is 1,000 IUs per day. )

Getting enough Vitamin D through foods is somewhat difficult. You can get some naturally-occurring dietary Vitamin D by eating oily fish like salmon several times a week. When the vitamin supplement is added to foods like milk, it isn't naturally occurring, and the amount is so low it doesn’t make much of a dent in your deficiency. However, even naturally-occurring dietary sources are not the main and most efficient Vitamin-D-manufacturing process that your body uses.

You need direct sunlight on your face, arms, and legs for some amount of time every day, or every couple of days. How much time? Listen to your body: it will tell you. When your skin starts to turn pink, it means you are starting to "cook," literally, and you should get out of the direct sunlight by putting on a hat or a light-weight shirt and pants if it is summer. (Use sunscreen if you must, but please try to avoid the toxic ingredients in sun-screen products.)

I believe this is another example of the "Ecosystem of YOU" I sometimes write about. Not only does a proper amount of sunlight allow your skin to absorb and utilize the proper amount to UV rays, spending much more time than you need in the sun usually results in a sunburn, which is your body's way of telling you that the required quota of UV rays have been absorbed, you need to get out of the sun now. Your body always tells you what it needs; you just need to develop the right "ears" to hear it.

It gets even better, folks. As long as you are not obese (because obesity sufferers are often Vitamin D deficient, too), the Vitamin D your body makes as it is exposed to sunlight in the spring, summer, and autumn is stored in your body and slowly released in levels that can carry you through the sun-starved winter months.

Yes, that's right….if you get enough sun exposure on your skin (without blocking it with chemical blocking products) in the mild months, your bodily reserves of Vitamin D may very well forestall the depression and SAD that descends during the winter. Wouldn’t you just love to make depression and SAD a thing of the past, make it unnecessary for you to even consider taking antidepressant drugs that often don't work anyway?!


Veggies.... said...

Thanks for another great post M!

Sunlight has become so taboo which is not only unfortunate but apparently dangerous to our health too.

Another case of 'can't see the forest for the trees' it seems and of course,the drug companies making money feeding on this fear factor.

I never bought into this 'reasoning' including the idea of 'slathering' chemically laden sunscreen on, to make myself 'sun safe' .

This is almost as bad as the 'deet' madness that continues in bug sprays,ooops....better stay on topic,another big pet peeve of mine. Suffice to say,another case of feeding off people's fears, in a very bad way.

Michelle said...

That is exactly it...the spin being put on sunlight, and the fear factor....all of which is doing far more harm than anyone ever suspected.

I think I will go out and get some of that healthy sunshine right now!! :-)

Veggies.... said...

Sounds like a good plan! We are having a glorious sunny day, here in BC (that is not the norm!!) so better make the most of it.

See you in blogland!

Steve said...

Michelle, you are right on target. All of us have different DNA and different metabolisms. Some herbs and vitamins work better than others. The first thing that is needed is proper nutrition and a good physical exam. As the director of Novus Medical Detox, I often see patients who are on alcohol or opioids, central nervous system depressants, also taking antidepressants. When they detox they find they don't need the antidepressants.

This is good news because a Swedish study showed that 52% of the 2006 suicides by women on antidepressants. Since antidepressants work no better than placebos and are less effective than exercise in dealing with depression.

There is a prescription drug epidemic and these are leaders in the list of terrible abuses.

Steve Hayes