A natural food supplement reduces anxiety in mice, according to a new Weizmann Institute of Science study. The plant-derived substance, beta-sitosterol, was found to produce this effect both on its own and in synergic combination with an antidepressant known under the brand name Prozac. If these findings, published today in Cell Reports Medicine, are confirmed in clinical trials, they could point the way toward the use of beta-sitosterol as a treatment for relieving anxiety in humans.
Anxiety is not always a bad thing. In fact, in evolutionary terms, feeling anxious about potential threats is critical for survival because it helps us mount an appropriate response. That’s precisely why developing antianxiety drugs is so challenging. The circuits for anxiety in the brain are closely related to those responsible for memory, awareness and other functions vital for handling danger, so scientists are on the lookout for compounds that can selectively suppress anxiety without causing unwanted side effects.
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