Big Pharma’s Serotonin Scam

Most doctors will still tell you depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain that leads to low serotonin levels. The theory is more than 60 years old.

And I have to admit, I believed it for a long time. I’ve even written to you about it…

But I’m now convinced that the depression-serotonin connection is a myth created by drug companies to sell their selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.

Big Pharma has made a fortune on our modern epidemic of depression. Most doctors are quick to offer not just one but two or even three pills for everything from low mood to major depression.

The serotonin myth has been a huge marketing success. Doctors write more than 250 million prescriptions for SSRIs like Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil every year.

But when researchers took a look at 38 clinical trials covering 3,000 depressed patients on these drugs they found that 75% of mood improvement came from the drugs’ placebo effect.

In other words, you could take a sugar pill and get the same benefits.

In one animal study, researchers knocked out the part of the brain that makes serotonin. You would think that would produce some very depressed mice. But the mice with no serotonin were no more depressed than a control group.1

And in another study, researchers tested serotonin levels in spinal fluid taken from two groups of people. One group was depressed patients. The other group had no depression. Results showed both groups had the exact same levels of serotonin.2

It’s no wonder that studies show SSRIs and other depression drugs don’t work.3

For years I’ve been saying that depression is not as simple as low serotonin. It’s more likely to be caused by inflammation.

Let me explain…

A study from Emory University found a clear link between inflammation and depression. Patients with major depression had more inflammation. Researchers also found that reducing inflammation may lift depression in patients.4

And our modern grain-based diet is at the root of that inflammation. The inflammatory protein gluten in many grains has been linked to depression…

In a study from Australia, 22 people on a gluten-free diet were given gluten, whey or a placebo for just three days. Then they were tested for their mental state. Those getting gluten scored much higher on the depression scale than the others.5

I don’t prescribe antidepressants. Instead, I advise my patients to avoid grains and get back to what I call a “primal way of eating.” Our primal ancestors never ate grains. And they weren’t chronically depressed.

To eat like our ancestors, get most of your calories from fat and protein. Look for grass-fed beef and dairy products, wild-caught cold-water fish and poultry and eggs from pastured animals. Choose traditional healthy fats like olive oil, butter and coconut oil.

Relieve Depression without Big Pharma’s Fake Drugs

And if depression does strike, I recommend some natural compounds to lift your mood. Here are three of the best I’ve found.

  1. SAMe. This co-enzyme is one of the main building blocks your brain needs to produce neurotransmitters. It’s been used in Europe to treat depression for over 20 years. In a Harvard study, psychiatrists treated 30 patients with major depression who didn’t respond to Big Pharma’s drugs. They gave the patients 800 mg to 1,600 mg of SAMe daily. After just six weeks 50% of the patients responded to SAMe. And a remarkable 43% even had a remission of their symptoms!

    I recommend you take 200 mg a day to start. If after two weeks you don’t see a big improvement, increase to 400 mg.

  2. Omega-3 Fats. Studies show omega-3 fats help ward off depression. People who take in more omega-3s have increased gray matter in the areas of the brain that control depression, emotions and mood. Even bipolar patients who don’t respond to drugs have been shown to improve with omega-3s.

    Over the years I’ve found that it’s almost impossible to get enough omega-3s from your diet. I recommend krill oil and squid oil to my patients. To prevent depression take at least 2,000 mg per day. If you already have depression, a dosage of up to 4,000 mg of omega-3s per day helps lift mood.

  3. Magnesium. Low magnesium in the brain is linked to serious depression that resists most drugs. But taking magnesium can rapidly terminate stubborn depression. Research shows it works better than the common antidepressant imipramine. And it doesn’t have the bad side effects.

    Case histories show magnesium supplements can lift major depression in less than seven days. All it took was 125 mg to 300 mg of magnesium with each meal and at bedtime.

    I recommend taking between 600 mg and 1,000 mg of magnesium per day. Look for the glycinate or taurinate forms.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

Al Sears, MD, CNS

1. Angoa-Pérez M, Kane MJ, Briggs DI, et al. “Mice Genetically Depleted of Brain Serotonin do not Display a Depression-like Behavioral Phenotype.” ACS chemical neuroscience. 2014.
2. Whitaker, R. (2010). Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America. Crown Publishing.
3. Lacasse JR., et al. “Serotonin and Depression: A Disconnect between the Advertisements and the Scientific Literature.” PLOS Medicine. November 8, 2005.
4. Miller AH., et al. “Inflammation and its discontents: the role of cytokines in the pathophysiology of major depression.” Biol Psychiatry. 2009 May 1.
5. Peters SL, Biesiekierski JR, Yelland GW, Muir JG, Gibson PR. “Randomised clinical trial: gluten may cause depression in subjects with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity – an exploratory clinical study.” Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2014.