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    You Ask, I Answer: B Vitamins & Mental Health

    What do you think about those TrueHope EMPower vitamins that make all kinds of claims about aiding mental health?

    I know B-complexes aid mental functioning, but is all of that really even bioavailable?

    — Anonymous
    Via the blog

    What do I think? I think it is an extremely disturbing — and dangerous — product.

    TrueHope advertises itself as “bringing hope, healing, and health through the research, development, and promotion of high effective nutritional supplements designed to correct mood disorders and other nutrient-depleted conditions.”

    In essence, they claim that mental conditions caused by chemical imbalances (such as bipolar disorder and depression) can be cured by popping what is, in essence, a daily multivitamin.

    This claim is based on “evidence” from very shoddy trials.

    In fact, there are a grand total of three, none of which are randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials (check out this Wikipedia link for “clinical trial 101” reading.)

    Anyhow, their “mood-corrective” formula contains very high (sometimes above the upper tolerable intake) doses of a multitude of vitamins and minerals, plus a handful of other ingredients like grape seed extract and methionine.

    One particularly disturbing included ingredient is vanadium, a trace mineral that people with bipolar disorder have been shown to actually have high levels of.

    I am at a complete loss as to why this is present in EMPower.

    Although it is true that the B vitamins play a role in mental function, that is very different from mood disorders.

    The idea that B vitamins help with bipolar disorder is equivalent to someone claiming that since Vitamin C supports immune system function, megadoses could be effective in curing someone of AIDS.

    If anyone ever attempts to tell you they can correct a mental disorder caused by a chemical imbalance through vitamins and minerals, be sure to run in the opposite direction and stay far, far away.

    By the way, this product has been extremely controversial in its native Canada, where psychiatry and mental health organizations have warned patients of the dangers of relying on a combination of vitamins and minerals to control their mood disorders.

    It has also been alleged that these pills “were supposedly designed to stop pigs from chewing each other’s tails.”



    1. Anonymous said on July 24th, 2008

      what do you think of negative calorie foods? can someone lose weight if they eat well over their recommended calories of just negative calorie food?

    2. Meredith (in Toronto) said on August 1st, 2008

      Truehope is part of an even bigger controversy in Canada right now about the regulation of natural health products (bill C-51).

      I’m sure you’ve heard of it, Andy, but for anyone who’s interested in more info, I heard a great podcast on CBC about it, which actually interviewed the Director of Regulatory Affairs of Truehope. CBC’s The Current – May 28 Episode

      Anyway, thanks for the post, Andy. The guy in the interview I heard sounded fairly reasonable (though he really dodged some questions, which raised my suspicions immediately) so it was nice to see some evidence that this product is indeed crap.

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