The following Q&A presentation is taken from a recent media interview with Dr. Charles Popper.
Q: As a Harvard University Psychiatrist & Psychopharmacologist, how did you get involved in nutrition?
A: “I first became involved in nutrition as a psychiatrist observing a 10 year-old boy who had bipolar disorder—a very serious form of it. He was having major temper tantrums for an hour, two hours, four hours a day (every day for some months)—a very seriously disruptive set of symptoms. And he took a vitamin-mineral supplement and within 5 days his symptoms cleared entirely. The tantrums were gone on the 5th day of treatment and he wasn't even irritable, he wasn't even grouchy. Now, we don't have any psychiatric drugs that can do that. I've never seen a psychiatric drug do that in any case...! So based on that one child, I began to pay attention to nutrition and to the use of vitamins and minerals, in particular, to treat mood disorders.”
Q: According to your experience & review of the medical literature: what kinds of mineral-vitamin formulations seem to be most effective?
A: “Many of the vitamins and minerals that people obtain from drugstores are relatively low-quality vitamins and minerals. They contain many ingredients but they don't necessarily absorb into the body. Their biological availability is often very poor. So it is in fact true that people are taking vitamins and minerals without getting substantial effects out of them. Especially in psychiatry, when we are using these as medical treatments, we look for very much higher quality vitamins and minerals that are demonstrated to have much higher absorption rates than the routine commercial formulations.”
Q: According to your experience & review of the medical literature: what potential do mineral-vitamin supplements have to treat mental illness?
A: “So in comparing the early data we are currently looking at on what these broad spectrum vitamin and mineral treatments can do in mental health, what we’re finding is that they can have effects that are virtually as strong or as strong as what conventional psychiatric medications can do—with much fewer side effects. The surprise—what we were not expecting—is that, again based on this early data, what we’re finding is that the stability that the vitamins and minerals are able to achieve is far greater than what the psychiatric drugs will do.”
Q: How do your patients describe their experience using these vitamin-mineral supplements compared with medications they have taken?
A: “So, what the patients describe (having been on psychiatric medications and then stopping and moving to vitamins and mineral treatments) is that they feel much more clear-headed. The mental fog that they had gotten used to while taking psychiatric medications appears to be much diminished and patients describe themselves as more clear-headed, able to think more sharply and clearly then they had while they were on psychiatric medications… And then, after they are off their medications and on the nutrients, their symptoms are well-controlled and they notice this very clear change in their mental clarity.”
Q: How do you think this discovery of the effectiveness of mineral-vitamin supplements could impact the future of psychiatry?
A: “If it turns out with more effective studies that we can treat depression, bipolar disorder, attention deficit disorder, or perhaps other psychiatric disorders with vitamins and minerals that were as effective as the current psychiatric drugs, but with much fewer side effects and better long-term stability, and with less mental fog, if that were to turn out to be true, then we would have a much better set of alternative treatments to be able to offer patients who are currently struggling with these conditions.”
Visit our NutraTalk Blog for more information about Dr. Popper's clinical experience with Daily Essential Nutrients (and its previous versions), including a summary of his recent scholarly literature review: "Single-Micronutrient and Broad-Spectrum Micronutrient Approaches for Treating Mood Disorders in Youth and Adults", published in the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America.