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Adolescent depression and vitamin D

Posted on: March 12, 2012   by  John Cannell, MD

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Scientists dismiss many open studies in psychiatry with skepticism for good reason; they are often falsely positive because of something called the “placebo effect.” That is, if you take 50 depressed teenagers and give them vitamin D and 50% improve, one has no way of knowing if it was the vitamin D or the placebo effect.

Placebo effects occur for lots of reasons, mainly because psychiatric diseases, with few exceptions, tend to get better over time. This is particularly true of major depression, where the placebo response may be as high as 50% (for reasons that are unclear, researchers see less placebo effect in obsessive-compulsive disorder). In depression, the placebo effect means that almost half your subjects will tend to improve with placebo, or the measurement scales you use will show a 50% improvement in the average patient.

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