Safe, natural hope for treatment-resistant depression

I’ve been a big fan of acetyl-l-carnitine — and its effect on brain health, in particular — for decades. So I can’t say the news I’m going to share with you today surprises me.

It’s exciting, though. Because I’m always happy to see when new uses are discovered for old standbys. Especially when it gives struggling patients — in this case, people with major depressive disorder (MDD) — a new shot at a normal life.

According to new research, low levels of acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) could actually be a reliable biomarker for depression in both men and women.

This recent study looked at patients with treatment-resistant depression and a history of childhood trauma. And in this population, the worse the ALC deficiency, the higher the severity of major depression. The onset of depression also occurred earlier.

What rats can tell us about trauma relief

It goes without saying that depression is complex.

It’s not well understood by the medical community. (At least, not the conventional medical community, which stubbornly insists on treating individual symptoms instead of the whole person.) And doctors are often at a loss when it comes to assessing who’s at the highest risk, how bad it really is, and how to treat it effectively.

So this latest discovery could really be a game-changer.

Initially, researchers studied rodents, where scientists found that ALC deficiency correlated with depressive behavior — specifically as a reaction to stress. But when researchers boosted depressed rats ALC levels with supplements, the response was both rapid and lasting.

Obviously, the next step was to see whether the same thing happened in humans. Which brings us to this latest study.

As I mentioned earlier, the study patients with earlier onset, severe major depressive disorder had lower blood ALC levels. This was also the case for patients with treatment-resistant depression. In both groups, low ALC had significant associations to trauma — including physical and emotional abuse, and neglect.

The antidepressant double standard

Of course, the authors didn’t conclude with a recommendation for depressed patients to start supplementing with ALC. Which is no surprise, considering mainstream studies almost never come right out and endorse natural therapies.

To be fair, they really don’t have enough information about potential dosages or treatment duration to make concrete recommendations.

But unanswered questions never seemed to bother the FDA when it came to approving drugs for depression. So why are we bothering with formalities now?

Especially considering the safety profile of ALC vs. pharmaceutical antidepressants…

There’s not a single FDA-approved antidepressant drug on the market that doesn’t come with a laundry list of serious, sometimes life-threatening, side effects. To make matters worse, a lot of these drugs eventually stop working altogether.

Meanwhile, ALC doesn’t have any adverse effects.

So why shouldn’t a patient with depression try it before starting down the pharmaceutical path?

If you’re struggling with depression, I urge you to work closely with a doctor skilled in natural medicine to determine your ALC levels and an ideal dosage for your particular needs. To find a practitioner near you, I recommend using the search directory via the Integrative Medicine for Mental Health website. And always be sure to consult with a doctor before going off any medication or modifying your current supplement routine.

I also encourage you to read more about the brain benefits ALC offers in my free e-letter archives. Simply visit and type “acetyl-l-carnitine” into the top right search bar.