From time to time I come across wonderful posts from very knowledgeable people. This is one of them. Allow Dinielle to show you the strong link between what you eat and your risk of depression. You’ll be fascinated!
Over to Dinielle:
The connection between nutrition and depression is quite clear now. Depression is more typically thought of as strictly biochemical-based or emotionally-rooted. On the contrary, nutrition can play a key role in depression. Depression is a disorder associated with major symptoms such as increased sadness and anxiety, loss of appetite, depressed mood, and a loss of interest in pleasurable activities. Nutritional neuroscience is an emerging discipline shedding light on the fact that nutritional factors are intertwined with human cognition, behaviour, and emotions.
Deficiencies in neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline, and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) are often associated with depression. The amino acids tryptophan, tyrosine, phenylalanine, and methionine are often helpful in treating many mood disorders including depression. When consumed alone on an empty stomach, tryptophan, a precursor of serotonin, is usually converted to serotonin. Hence, tryptophan can induce sleep and tranquillity.
The most common mental disorders that are currently prevalent in numerous countries are depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The most common nutritional deficiencies seen in patients with mental disorders are of omega–3 fatty acids, B vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that are precursors to neurotransmitters.
How can carbohydrates affect mood?
Eating a meal which is rich in carbohydrates triggers the release of insulin in the body. Insulin helps let blood sugar into cells where it can be used for energy and simultaneously it triggers the entry of tryptophan into the brain. Tryptophan in the brain affects the neurotransmitters levels. Consumption of diets low in carbohydrate tends to precipitate depression, since the production of brain chemicals serotonin and tryptophan that promote the feeling of well-being, is triggered by carbohydrate-rich foods.
What about protein?
Many of the neurotransmitters in the brain are made from amino acids (proteins). The neurotransmitter dopamine is made from the amino acid tyrosine and the neurotransmitter serotonin is made from the tryptophan. If there is a lack of any of these two amino acids, there will not be enough synthesis of the respective neurotransmitters, which is associated with low mood and aggression in some people.
The brain is one of the organs with the highest level of lipids (fats). Brain lipids, composed of fatty acids, are structural constituents of membranes. Research findings point out that an imbalance in the ratio of the EFAs, namely the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, and/or a deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids, may be responsible for depression in some people. The main PUFA in the brain is DHA, derived from the omega-3 fatty acid α-linolenic acid, arachidonic acid (AA) and docosatetraenoic acid, both derived from omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid. Experimental studies have revealed that diets lacking omega-3 PUFA lead to considerable disturbance in neural function.
Nutrition and depression are intricately and undeniably linked.
Supplementation with cobalamin (B12) enhances cerebral and cognitive functions in the elderly; it frequently promotes the functioning of factors related to the frontal lobe, in addition to the language function of people with cognitive disorders. Adolescents who have a borderline level of vitamin B12 deficiency develop signs of cognitive changes.
It has been observed that patients with depression have blood folate levels, which are, on an average, 25% lower than healthy controls. Low levels of folate have also been identified as a strong predisposing factor of poor outcome with antidepressant therapy. A controlled study has been reported to have shown that 500 mcg of folic acid enhanced the effectiveness of antidepressant medication. Folate’s critical role in brain metabolic pathways has been well recognised by various researchers who have noted that depressive symptoms are the most common neuropsychiatric manifestation of folate deficiency. It is not clear yet whether poor nutrition, as a symptom of depression, causes folate deficiency or primary folate deficiency produces depression and its symptoms.
I will leave it here otherwise, this will go forever! Other nutrients to note are zinc, calcium, iodine, selenium, lithium, chromium, and iron. Of course, let’s not forget probiotics! 90% of your serotonin is made in your gut!
Thanks, Dinielle. This is such fascinating information! The bottom line: improve your diet, and you really can improve your mood.
Qualified Holistic Nutritionist and Chef
Dinielle can teach you a healthy wholesome way of eating, no gimmicks or starvation. She works naturopathically, which means to: first do no harm, treating the whole person, the healing power of food as medicine, and prevention. When we holistically treat someone we don’t just focus on the “disease” we explore each symptom and piece together a picture; we can then treat accordingly so the client can begin to heal. There is not a one size fits all way of eating and it is important that each person is an individual with unique needs and goals. Dinielle encourages a wholefood diet with the aim to reduce processed foods and increase nutrient density, through education and support in a positive and nurturing manner.