selenium treats depression and prevents postpartum depression

It’s very weird. But your levels of this nutrient have nothing to do with suffering from depression or with how bad your depression is. But taking it treats your depression. Want to see what nutrient is not an antidepressant but is very effective as an antidepressant?

Meet selenium. It doesn’t matter how much you have, you’re just as likely to be depressed. But if you take it when you are depressed, it works. Weird!

This just published study included 20 studies in a systematic review and 15 in a meta-analysis. The meta-analysis found that people with the highest levels of selenium had the same risk of depression as people with the lowest levels. It also found that depressed people with the highest selenium had just as bad symptoms as people with the lowest selenium.

Disappointing. But wait. Weirdly, the meta-analysis also found that supplementing selenium when you are depressed significantly reduces depression symptoms.

It also found that having higher selenium levels is associated with a significant reduction in one type of depression: postpartum depression. When you are pregnant, some of your selenium gets transferred to the fetus. That means that, especially in the third trimester, you may be low in selenium. You also donate some of your selenium to your baby through your breast milk. So, pregnant and breastfeeding women may be lower in selenium, which may contribute to postpartum depression.

The systematic review did find that the results were mixed and confusing. Some individual studies did find an association between selenium levels and depression; some did not. So, maybe selenium does help prevent depression? The researchers note that brain function is affected by long term selenium deficiency. Maybe the studies weren’t long enough. They also note that removing one study from the meta-analysis results in the association between low selenium and depression scores suddenly jumping to significant.

Despite all the weird results, this meta-analysis shows that, even if getting enough selenium does not prevent depression, taking selenium can effectively help your depression. It can also prevent postpartum depression.

Sci Rep. 2022; 12: 1045

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