Vitamin D and omega-3 boost mental health


According to the latest research findings, vitamin D and omega-3 could work together to improve cognitive function, social behaviour and mental health, especially for those suffering from ADHD, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

While previous studies have established that omega-3 and vitamin D are beneficial in improving cognitive function and behaviour, the exact mechanisms relating to this were unknown.

Researcher Dr. Bruce Ames, from the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, suggests that the omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and vitamin D work together to maintain healthy levels of the mood-boosting hormone serotonin in the brain.

The researchers said: “This synergy of omega-3 and vitamin D can be explained in part by their effects on the serotonin system: vitamin D regulates serotonin synthesis, EPA influences serotonin release, and DHA improves membrane embedded serotonin receptor accessibility.”

According to the researchers, low serotonin levels in normal individuals are associated with antisocial behaviour, increased uncontrolled aggressive behaviour and self-injury.

The study also suggests that mental illnesses are less prevalent among women due to a protective effect provided by oestrogen, which increases brain serotonin synthesis.

According to the researchers, many sufferers of mental illness are deficient in micronutrients, particularly vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids: “This may explain why supplementation with these essential micronutrients has been shown to be effective for treating symptoms associated with ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, impulsive behaviour, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acid supplementation would be a safer therapeutic treatment than serotonin enhancing drugs, which often have negative side effects.”

While the researchers call for further clinical trials to determine the optimal doses of vitamin D, EPA and DHA for each specific illness, there is great scope for success in supplementation.

Many researchers advise 2,000IU-4,000IU of vitamin D3 a day. It’s important to take an omega-3 fish oil supplement with 400IU-800IU of vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) in order to keep the fish oil from breaking down and oxidising (which can otherwise add to the oxidant stress on the body) too quickly. This combination should not be taken by those taking anti-coagulant, blood thinning medications, as vitamin E and essential fatty acids (which naturally thin the blood) are contraindicated.

Here's to your good health,

Rachael Linkie
Managing Editor
Journal Of Natural Health Solutions

Disclaimer: This article is part of the Agora Health's extensive research archive. The research and information contained in this article was accurate at the the time of publication but may have been updated since the date of publication. Full references and citations for this article are available in the downloadable PDF version of the monthly The Journal of Natural Health Solutions issue in which this article appears.

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FASEB Journal, published online ahead of print

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