The old proverb – one is what one eats – has already anticipated a long time ago, which seems to confirm scientific research initially very hesitantly, but now more and more. There is, in fact, a causal link between diet and the onset of depression. Not only as a preventive measure, but also in the case of an existing illness, it has the power to positively influence the course of a depression.
Relationship between diet and depression is scientifically proven
A meta-study published in 2011 on 11 long-term studies on bipolar depression and / or signs of depression in adults aged 18-97 years showed a link between these depressive symptoms and the diet of the patients. The follow-up studies on the investigations included periods of two to 13 years. The researchers discovered an opposite relationship between the risk of depression and the consumption of folates, omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fats, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes. The results clearly showed that the diet and the associated nutrient supply can positively influence the risk of developing depression.
The cause of depression
Depression can be triggered by various factors. They range from crises and losses in working or private life, to a poor childhood, to a genetic predisposition.
However different the causes may be, the effects on the brain are comparable. There is always a lack of chemical messengers – the so-called neurotransmitters – in the affected population.
These messengers are involved in the transmission of nerve impulses. The most famous representatives are serotonin and dopamine, both of which are also considered as happiness hormones. Serotonin deficiency, in particular, can lead to depressive disorders.
It has long been known how important nutrients such as essential fatty acids, magnesium or vitamins B6, B9 and vitamin B12 play in the production of neurotransmitters. A deficient supply of the body with these nutrients contributes to a psychological imbalance, which can lead to the development of a depression and strengthen an already existing depressive mood.
Omega-3 fatty acids for depression and other mental disorders
People who consume mainly poorly quality fats – as we now know – have a higher susceptibility to depression than those who eat sufficiently healthy, high-quality fats. The recommended fats include especially those rich in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. They are found mainly in krill oil, fat sea fish (salmon and tuna) and the DHA algae oil, precursors thereof but also in linseed, linseed oil, hemp seed, hemp oil, walnuts, walnut oil or also in chia seeds.
Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are extremely important for the development and function of the nerve cells in the brain, yes, they are even with the most important components of the brain tissue.
A deficiency of these fatty acids is therefore associated with a series of mental health problems. Schizophrenia, and other disorders.
Omega-3 fatty acids combined with vitamin D for depression
Researchers at the Children’s Hospital, Oakland Research Institute in California, USA have found that the combination of the two long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) with vitamin D prevent the development of depression and other neuropsychiatric disorders that already exist.
Apparently, the Omega-3 vitamin D combination can positively influence serotonin metabolism in the brain.
The hormone serotonin is also called “happiness hormone”. Many psychiatric and neurological diseases are associated with a deficiency of serotonin in the brain. This includes depression as well as schizophrenia and autism.
As a result, serotonin reuptake inhibitors are usually prescribed in these indications, which are intended to ensure an evenly increased serotonin level, which significantly improves the patient’s mood.
The Californian scientists now showed that vitamin D activates the formation of serotonin from the amino acid tryptophan. However, this is only possible to a sufficient extent if sufficient vitamin D is present in the body.
However, a major part of the Central European population now suffers from a vitamin D deficiency, so that the rising depression numbers are no longer a miracle.
At the same time, the typical modern diet provides little of the above-mentioned omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), which increases the risk of depression. If EPA and DHA are added in the form of krill oil, fatty sea fish or even DHA algae oil (3 EL per day), EPA reduces the level of those inflammatory agents in the brain, which in turn inhibit serotonin release.
At the same time, DHA makes nerve cells more sensitive to serotonin. In this way, not only are larger amounts of serotonin formed, but the hormone can simultaneously also unfold its effect even better.
Nutrition Tips for Depression
- Use only high-quality, cold-pressed and biological oils.
- Take care of a sufficient intake of omega 3 fatty acids (see above).
- Food supplements such as Krillöl or Inka Gold support the mental balance.
- Turmeric with the active ingredient curcumin exhibits antidepressant properties – as evidenced by a Chinese study from 2008. In addition, there are numerous other studies on the topic of turmeric and depression.
- Safran is traditionally used in Persia as a remedy for depression.
- Melissa tea, lavender tea and rose blossom tea are whitening.
- The night candle is considered one of the best suppliers of the natural antidepressant tryptophan.
- The St. John’s Wort is known for its whitening effect.
- The sweetworm root contains numerous ingredients which show an antidepressant effect. Therefore, the root is enjoyed as a tea highly recommended. However, a maximum of 3 cups daily and a period of 6 weeks should not be exceeded.
Long-term use could lead to unpleasant symptoms such as headache, hypertension, disturbance of the water balance, etc. This tea is not suitable for pregnant and lactating women, as well as for people suffering from liver, kidney or heart disease.
- Jacka FN et al., “Association of Western and traditional diets with depression and anxiety in women.” Am J Psychiatry. 2010 Mar;167(3):305-11. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2009.09060881. Epub 2010 Jan 4
- Akbaraly TN et al., “Dietary pattern and depressive symptoms in middle age.” Br J Psychiatry. 2009 Nov
- Sánchez-Villegas A et al., “Dietary fat intake and the risk of depression: the SUN Project.” PLoS One. 2011 Jan
- Dr. Bruce N. Ames et al., “Vitamin D and the omega-3 fatty acids control serotonin synthesis and action, part 2: relevance for ADHD, bipolar, schizophrenia, and impulsive behavior”, FASEB Journal, Februar 2015