One of the primary reasoning behind psychiatric treatment is that the chemical composition within the brain plays an important role in human behaviour.
In particular, a growing body of literature links dietary choices to brain health and the risk of psychiatric illness. Research has also shown that vitamin deficiencies may play a causative role in mental illness and exacerbate symptoms. Nutrition and mental health have a reciprocal relationship – poor nutrition can affect your mental health; psychiatric symptoms can result in poor nutrition.
Evidence is rapidly growing which shows the vital relationships between both diet quality and potential nutritional deficiencies and mental health. While there is a wide range of nutrients involved, there are four primary chemicals that should be looked at: Vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, and Omega-3.
Vitamin D helps maintain the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth, and muscles healthy. But aside from this, vitamin D also has an important role in our mental health. One example of this is that low levels of Vitamin D is associated with most types of depression – including seasonal affective disorder, manic depression, postpartum depression, bipolar disorder, etc.
It is important that we maintain sufficient levels of this vitamin. Research has shown that vitamin D levels greater than 40 (as compared to the population average of 15ng/ml) can reduce the risk of both mother’s pregnancy outcomes and the baby’s health outcomes.
Rufus Greenbaum of the Vitamin D Association gives an overview of the available data concerning Vitamin D and health in the UK.
If you suffer from Vitamin D deficit and want to improve it, you can easily buy one online. You can buy Vitamin D as Vitamin D capsules or Vitamin D drops.
Vitamin D and magnesium share similar health benefits. For instance, both of these vitamins have been known to help in relation to some of the diseases including:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Attention deficit disorder
- Back pain
- Chronic fatigue
- Cluster headaches
- Hearing loss
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- And many more
Sadly, many people do not consume enough magnesium. For instance, over 48% of the US population consumes less than the average daily requirement of magnesium, thus are very likely deficient. Meanwhile, in the UK, it has been reported that 70% of us have low levels of the essential mineral.
This widespread deficiency may be contributing to the rise in many health problems such as cardiovascular disease.
Magnesium supplements are available in a variety of forms. The magnesium in Magnesium Citrate can promote cardiovascular health, can contribute to maintaining normal nerve- and muscle function, and can help in keeping your bones strong and healthy.
A healthy diet and modest amounts of exercise are the basis for long and healthy life. Some supplements, such as zinc, are proven to help improve specific functions within the body; which may then help you to live an even longer and healthier life. Without them, you may always be running on empty, like a car without gasoline or a photocopier without toner.
The influence of nutritional element zinc and depression are highly connected – zinc activates hormonal, neurotransmitter and signalling pathways in the gut which modulate brain functions like appetite, sleep, neurogenesis, cognitive function and mood.
Omega-3s are a kind of polyunsaturated (good) fat that comes in different forms:
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – from fish and fish oil
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – from plants and plant oil
Research shows that consuming omega-3 supplements improves cognition and working memory, and emerging research shows Omega-3 consumption may prevent cognitive decline.
Omega-3s are important for brain health and function. At least 50% of the brain is fat. DHA is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in the brain and has been shown to have neuroprotective properties, while EPA has been linked to reducing inflammation.
Why we should take supplements
According to the British Dietetic Association, Even if you have a calcium-rich diet (for example from eating plenty of low-fat dairy foods and green leafy vegetables), without enough vitamin D you cannot absorb the calcium into your bones and cells where it is needed. Vitamin D may have other important roles in the body, but there isn’t enough evidence at the moment to make any conclusions.
Internationally recognised NIH scientist Capt. Joseph Hibbeln, MD, takes stock of the impact on the mental health of deficits and excesses of brain-specific nutrients in our current diets that substantially reduce emotional distress in modern societies.
Vitamin D is the back in the spotlight as we enter autumn and are faced with the dual threats of flu season and a significant rise in cases of COVID-19.
Many of us will be spending more time indoors while following the Government’s advice on how to tackle the coronavirus emergency and slow down the spread of infection through the population. This means we won’t be able to benefit from the sunlight to make enough vitamin D.
Rufus Greenbaum, CEO of Greenvits, explains: ‘One of the most significant things that we can all do to improve our health and live longer is to raise the level of Vitamin D in our blood closer to the levels of our ancestors in Africa.’
Rufus reveals comprehensive data about vitamin D deficiency in the UK and how it changes during the year. He then outlines some key facts, health outcomes, and next steps required in the UK.
While the positive research around these supplements is encouraging, it’s important to keep in mind that these results aren’t perfect or definitive.
Vitamins are not a magic bullet, but in our quest to find ways to optimise our mental health and well-being, it is certainly a fundamental aspect that we need to take into account.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg.
The articles we publish on Psychreg are here to educate and inform. They’re not meant to take the place of expert advice. So if you’re looking for professional help, don’t delay or ignore it because of what you’ve read here. Check our full disclaimer.