News Brief: Carbohydrate-Rich Mixture Treats SAD

July 1, 2006

Drinking a carbohydrate-rich beverage appeared to improve symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in a small double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

Drinking a carbohydrate-rich beverageappeared to improve symptomsof seasonal affective disorder (SAD)in a small double-blind, placebocontrolledtrial. The study, conductedby David Mischoulon, MD, andassociates from the MassachusettsInstitute of Technology in Cambridge,found that 19 of 27 individualcomponents of the HamiltonRating Scale for Depression (HAMD)showed significant improvementin patients taking the beverage,including all components associatedwith SAD and “winter blues” (eg,oversleeping, weight gain, andfatigue).

The crossover trial, held duringearly winter, included 18 patientswith a diagnosis of SAD, determinedby the Structured ClinicalInterview (SCID) mood module.The drink used contained 40 mg ofa mixture of starch, maltodextrin,dextrose, and dextrin, and was comparedwith a control beverage thatcontained 15 mg of casein and25 mg of the carbohydrate mixture.The researchers explained that thecarbohydrate mixture was believedto contribute to serotonin synthesis,while casein may prevent tryptophanuptake by the brain anddampen synthesis of serotonin.

In the 16 patients who completedthe trial, there was a significantimprovement in work activity, middleinsomnia, and depersonalization/derealization. Given these positiveresults, the researchers suggestedthat replication of this pilot study andfurther investigation of this treatmentare warranted.