Exercise may be more beneficial for treating depression. There is research to support this idea. Research appearing in British Journal of Sports Medicine (April 2001;35:114-117) showed the benefit of exercise to depressed patients. It was a small study, involving 12 subjects. Each subject had a depressive episode as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Society of Psychiatry, the mean length of which was 35 weeks. The subjects exercised on a treadmill for 30 minutes each day for 10 days.

At the end of the exercise period, there was a reduction in the overall depression scores (as measured by the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression). The authors of the study concluded that in a short time, aerobic exercise can improve mood in patients with major depressive disorders.

Other research, appearing in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness (December 2001;41:539-545), studied 80 men and women who answered a mood questionnaire prior to exercising. The researchers determined that 52 of the subjects qualified as being in a depressed mood. After exercising, that group reported increased vigor, and reductions in anger, depression and anxiety.

Diet and nutrition may be of value. An animal study published in Biological Psychiatry (February 15, 2005;57(4):343-350), demonstrated the possibility that a combination of omega-3 fatty acids and uridine may have a positive effect on depression. Fish oil is a source of omega-3 fatty acids. Uridine is an important substance found in breast milk, it is essential for early nerve growth.

Rats were placed in water and had to swim. After a certain amount of time passed, they stopped swimming and began to float. The researchers correlated this with depression, or giving up. When the floating rats were given antidepressants, they began to swim again, signifying an improvement of depression. A combination of omega-3 fatty acids and uridine produced the same result—the rats began to swim again.

Simple solutions, like exercise and a good diet may be valuable for treating depression. It is worth taking the effort to find natural solutions to health problems, they do not have the side-effects of drugs. In 2003, British health authorities declared that most popular anti-depressants might sometimes increase the risk of suicidal behavior in children and teenagers. They declared all but one — Prozac — unsuitable for young people diagnosed with depression, but stopped short of a pediatric ban. In March, the FDA urged close monitoring of patients for suicide warning signs, especially when they first start the pills or change doses. The reason: The drugs may cause agitation, anxiety and hostility in a subset of patients unusually prone to rare side effects.

The FDA and Columbia University psychiatric specialists have re-evaluated 25 studies involving more than 4,000 young people and eight anti-depressants. They found that young anti-depressant users were about 1.8 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts or behaviors than patients given dummy pills.

The FDA plans to hold hearings in September to consider possible changes to the labeling guidelines on how the drugs can be used. The review of the Columbia data confirmed an earlier FDA analysis showing an increased risk between some anti-depressants and suicidal tendencies in children.

The agency commissioned a panel of experts at Columbia early this year to verify potential suicidal-type behavior in the clinical trials, after Andrew Mosholder, an FDA researcher, found that the drugs increased the risk of harmful behavior in children and recommended that they not be used.

Children under 18 years account for about 7% of the usage of the biggest anti-depressants, all but one of which are not approved for use in children. Only Eli Lilly’s Prozac, or fluoxetine, is approved for children, but doctors can prescribe non-approved drugs if they feel it is best for the patient.