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The True Value of Light Therapy on SAD

Although the signs of spring have sprung in most parts of the country -- even in Chicago -- and winter's chill may indeed be behind us, I was attracted to this fascinating study commissioned by the American Psychiatric Association that showed how effectively light therapy treats emotional problems, including seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

A report of the study, based on a meta-analysis of 20 randomized, controlled studies, also found the effects of light therapy (known as phototherapy) are comparable to those found in many clinical studies of antidepressant drug therapy for these disorders. Originally, researchers considered 173 studies but threw out most of them because they weren't "based on rigorous study designs," leading many to doubt the value of light therapy on SAD or other mood disorders.

The studies selected by the authors for inclusion in their meta-analysis were grouped into four categories that were limited to adults, ages 18-65, who met a criterion-based mood disorder diagnosis:

  • Bright light for SAD.
  • Bright light for non-seasonal depression.
  • Dawn simulation for SAD.
  • Bright light as an adjunct therapy combined with conventional antidepressants for non-seasonal affective disorder.

The meta-analysis demonstrated statistically significant treatment effects for SAD, dawn simulation for SAD and bright light treatment of non-seasonal depression, according to the report. In fact, the lead researcher pointed out the effect of light therapy in the meta-analysis was comparable to that of conventional medications to treat depression.

This probably has much to do with why scientists have recommended full-spectrum light therapy over SSRIs like Prozac or Zoloft. They have virtually no side effects and are much cheaper than prescription drugs over the long term. If you have any doubts, I urge you to take my free SAD test today!

In my experience, patients tend to feel a profound increase in energy and improvement in mood and sense of well being within two to three days after exposure to full spectrum lighting. That's why we're now offering BioPure Full Spectrum Lights in our Web store.

American Journal of Psychiatry, April 2005, Volume 162, Number 4: 656-662

EurekAlert April 4, 2005

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