More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Your Food And Your Mood
July 18, 2005
The Cincinnati Post

Never skip breakfast.

Never leave the house without a care package of healthy snacks.

Eat a good mix of carbohydrates and protein with each meal.

Such suggestions sound like good tips for slimming down -- but are they also an action plan for fending off depression, stress, anxiety and mood swings?

Absolutely, say some dietitians and researchers. "The link between food and mood is becoming much more known in a lot of ways," says Lynn Smith, a dietitian who helps patients use dietary changes to wean themselves off anti-depressants or avoid going on them.

The body of clinical research on the relationship between what we eat and how we feel has grown substantially in the past decade but is still fairly small. Nutritionists caution that not all mental illness can be tackled with changes in diet.

But as prescriptions for anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications skyrocket, an array of books, lectures and clinics around the country are beginning to emphasize the notion that the food we eat can have a profound effect on our emotional state.

"I don't think it is being given anywhere near enough attention," says Elizabeth Somer, author of Food and Mood Cookbook (2004; Henry Holt). "Many doctors don't even ask pregnant women what they are eating, much less people who come in with depression."

Somer and Smith say there are two main factors in diet-related mood problems.

First, people are not eating enough of the right building blocks for neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that help nerve cells communicate.

Second, they are eating too many refined sugars, which cause blood sugar to spike fast and high, then plunge below a healthy level.

At least five critical neurotransmitters are directly related to the foods we eat, writes Somer.

For instance, low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter built from the amino acids found in vitamins B6, B12, folic acid and other nutrients, may result in insomnia, depression, increased sensitivity to pain and aggressive behavior.

Low levels of dopamine and norepinephrine -- built up with the help of magnesium, B12 and folic acid -- leave people feeling irritable and moody. Fatty acids Omega 3 (fish oil) and Omega 6 (certain vegetable oils) also have been shown in some clinical studies to be associated with mood stabilization.

Unfortunately, says Smith, highly processed food loses many of these micro-nutrients in the manufacturing process.

Then there is the sugar roller-coaster.

"If we just got people off the massive quantities of sugar that we do, we would take care of a lot of the depression in this country," says Smith.

We tend to reach for sugar because it quickly spikes levels of feel-good serotonin, dietitians say. But it also spikes blood sugar levels dramatically within 10 or 15 minutes. When the body tries to stabilize itself, it overcompensates, dragging the level exceedingly low within 25 to 40 minutes. Low blood sugar is associated with depression, fatigue and anxiety.

Caffeine tends to make the crash even harder.

Nutritionists say a diet high in complex carbohydrates, such as fruits and whole grains, with a good balance of protein and minimal caffeine and sugar is the best bet.
 

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Your Food And Your Mood
July 18, 2005
The Cincinnati Post

Never skip breakfast.

Never leave the house without a care package of healthy snacks.

Eat a good mix of carbohydrates and protein with each meal.

Such suggestions sound like good tips for slimming down -- but are they also an action plan for fending off depression, stress, anxiety and mood swings?

Absolutely, say some dietitians and researchers. "The link between food and mood is becoming much more known in a lot of ways," says Lynn Smith, a dietitian who helps patients use dietary changes to wean themselves off anti-depressants or avoid going on them.

The body of clinical research on the relationship between what we eat and how we feel has grown substantially in the past decade but is still fairly small. Nutritionists caution that not all mental illness can be tackled with changes in diet.

But as prescriptions for anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications skyrocket, an array of books, lectures and clinics around the country are beginning to emphasize the notion that the food we eat can have a profound effect on our emotional state.

"I don't think it is being given anywhere near enough attention," says Elizabeth Somer, author of Food and Mood Cookbook (2004; Henry Holt). "Many doctors don't even ask pregnant women what they are eating, much less people who come in with depression."

Somer and Smith say there are two main factors in diet-related mood problems.

First, people are not eating enough of the right building blocks for neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that help nerve cells communicate.

Second, they are eating too many refined sugars, which cause blood sugar to spike fast and high, then plunge below a healthy level.

At least five critical neurotransmitters are directly related to the foods we eat, writes Somer.

For instance, low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter built from the amino acids found in vitamins B6, B12, folic acid and other nutrients, may result in insomnia, depression, increased sensitivity to pain and aggressive behavior.

Low levels of dopamine and norepinephrine -- built up with the help of magnesium, B12 and folic acid -- leave people feeling irritable and moody. Fatty acids Omega 3 (fish oil) and Omega 6 (certain vegetable oils) also have been shown in some clinical studies to be associated with mood stabilization.

Unfortunately, says Smith, highly processed food loses many of these micro-nutrients in the manufacturing process.

Then there is the sugar roller-coaster.

"If we just got people off the massive quantities of sugar that we do, we would take care of a lot of the depression in this country," says Smith.

We tend to reach for sugar because it quickly spikes levels of feel-good serotonin, dietitians say. But it also spikes blood sugar levels dramatically within 10 or 15 minutes. When the body tries to stabilize itself, it overcompensates, dragging the level exceedingly low within 25 to 40 minutes. Low blood sugar is associated with depression, fatigue and anxiety.

Caffeine tends to make the crash even harder.

Nutritionists say a diet high in complex carbohydrates, such as fruits and whole grains, with a good balance of protein and minimal caffeine and sugar is the best bet.
 

Daniel

daniel@psychlinks.com
Administrator
In addition to B12, another important B-vitamin is folic acid (folate):

On the basis of current data, we suggest that oral doses of both folic acid (800 microg daily) and vitamin B12 (1 mg daily) should be tried to improve treatment outcome in depression.

Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12. (2005)

As a vegetarian, my favorite sources of B12 are yogurt, milk, and eggs in addition to a multivitamin. Salmon, however, is ideal since it has more B12 and omega 3s.

Various Food Sources of B12
Various Food Sources of Folate (Folic Acid)

Technically, a true deficiency of B6 can lead to depression:

Signs of vitamin B6 deficiency include dermatitis (skin inflammation), glossitis (a sore tongue), depression, confusion, and convulsions.

Office of Dietary Supplements - Vitamin B6

However, adding additional B6 doesn't seem to help (unless you have symptoms of a B6 deficiency):

Vitamin B6 is needed for the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine [1]. These neurotransmitters are required for normal nerve cell communication. Researchers have been investigating the relationship between vitamin B6 status and a wide variety of neurologic conditions such as seizures, chronic pain, depression, headache, and Parkinson's disease [18].

Lower levels of serotonin have been found in individuals suffering from depression and migraine headaches. So far, however, vitamin B6 supplements have not proved effective for relieving these symptoms. One study found that a sugar pill was just as likely as vitamin B6 to relieve headaches and depression associated with low dose oral contraceptives [19].

Office of Dietary Supplements - Vitamin B6
 

Daniel

daniel@psychlinks.com
Administrator
In addition to B12, another important B-vitamin is folic acid (folate):

On the basis of current data, we suggest that oral doses of both folic acid (800 microg daily) and vitamin B12 (1 mg daily) should be tried to improve treatment outcome in depression.

Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12. (2005)

As a vegetarian, my favorite sources of B12 are yogurt, milk, and eggs in addition to a multivitamin. Salmon, however, is ideal since it has more B12 and omega 3s.

Various Food Sources of B12
Various Food Sources of Folate (Folic Acid)

Technically, a true deficiency of B6 can lead to depression:

Signs of vitamin B6 deficiency include dermatitis (skin inflammation), glossitis (a sore tongue), depression, confusion, and convulsions.

Office of Dietary Supplements - Vitamin B6

However, adding additional B6 doesn't seem to help (unless you have symptoms of a B6 deficiency):

Vitamin B6 is needed for the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine [1]. These neurotransmitters are required for normal nerve cell communication. Researchers have been investigating the relationship between vitamin B6 status and a wide variety of neurologic conditions such as seizures, chronic pain, depression, headache, and Parkinson's disease [18].

Lower levels of serotonin have been found in individuals suffering from depression and migraine headaches. So far, however, vitamin B6 supplements have not proved effective for relieving these symptoms. One study found that a sugar pill was just as likely as vitamin B6 to relieve headaches and depression associated with low dose oral contraceptives [19].

Office of Dietary Supplements - Vitamin B6
 

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