By: Nikita Kochhar
August 10 2022
There is no reliable medical evidence that supports the claim that cashews could be used as a replacement for any anti-depressant.
Even as the medical community is trying to raise awareness about issues related to mental health and fight stigmas and taboos around it, social media is rife with misinformation on the subject. A claim on Facebook stated that cashews are “natural anti-depressants” and should be consumed by those suffering from depression. The post claims that a handful of cashews could be used as a therapeutic equivalent of Prozac. The post was initially shared on the page Facebook page ‘Better Brain & Body’, but similar claims have been shared by different social media users. Some of these posts even blame large pharmaceutical companies (referred to as ‘Big Pharma’ by many) for keeping ‘facts’ hidden from the people, so that the former could benefit from the prescription medicines.
The claim appears to have originated from an article in the American magazine—Men's Journal. The article titled "The Case for Cashews" claimed that consuming a handful of cashews every day may help people away from depression. However, the magazine has failed to cite any medical evidence to back its claim. A nutritionist has been quoted to support the claim, but the magazine did not speak to a clinical doctor or a scientist to verify the claims made by the nutritionist about cashews.
Speaking to Logically, Pune-based consultant psychiatrist Dr. Soumitra Pathare said, "If you ask for medical advice, I would never recommend anything like this. Cashews cannot be a replacement for medication". He added that replacing anti-depressants for cashews "is a ridiculous kind of mechanistic, simplistic view of the world."
According to the American well-being website WebMD, because of high levels of magnesium, cashews can help reduce cholesterol levels, prevent heart diseases, prevent strokes, and manage diabetes. However, the website recommends eating cashews in moderation because of the high level of calories present in them. The nuts can also harm those who are allergic to them. Curing depression has not been stated as one of the health benefits. Some alleged depression-curing benefits of consuming cashews have been listed on several websites; however, we cannot authenticate the sources of any of them. These articles also do not cite any medical evidence to substantiate their claims about cashews.
A research paper published by the U.S based National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) terms major depression as a "chronic condition with a naturally fluctuating course." The paper reiterates that “depressive disorders require long-term treatment with antidepressants, psychotherapy, or both.” It further states that "Studies have shown that long-term use of antidepressants can protect against depressive symptoms"; however, "discontinuation of anti-depressant treatment too soon after an initial acute response may increase the risk of relapse or recurrence," especially if the withdrawal is abrupt.
There is no medical or scientific evidence yet to support that cashews can be used in place of anti-depressants. In fact, sudden discontinuation of anti-depressants without consulting a doctor could be harmful to those suffering from mental health disorders. Hence, we are marking this claim false.