What we eat and drink can have a profound influence on our health. Not just of the body, but of the brain too. For example, certain foodstuffs (e.g. the artificial sweetener aspartame) can have toxic effects on the brain. Other foodstuffs appear to ‘feed the brain’ and help optimise its function. For example, so-called omega-3 fats found in ‘oily’ fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel and herring appear to help maintain brain function and guard against depression.
Another nutrient that appears to have some capacity to improve mood is the mineral zinc. There is some evidence which links zinc depression with an enhanced risk of depression. Plus, I noticed recently that a recent study has found treatment with zinc improved some measures of mood.
In this study, a group of women were treated with either:
1. a daily multivitamin and mineral
2. a multivitamin and mineral plus 7 mg of zinc daily
for a total of 10 weeks. This design was, in my opinion, not ideal. To gauge the effects of zinc it would have been perhaps better to compare the effects of zinc supplementation against a true placebo. However, because both groups were taking a multivitamin and mineral, one could argue that these ‘cancel each-other out’, and that any difference in effects between the groups is likely to be down to the zinc.
At the end of the study, the women taking the zinc were found to lower scores in terms of depression/dejection as well as anger/hostility. The authors conclude that zinc supplementation may be effective in reducing depression and anger.
I went looking for information for information regarding the proposed mechanism(s) of action of zinc and found a relevant review paper  (you can download a free pdf of this paper here). This papers explores a variety of ways in which zinc may have natural mood-stabilising or antidepressant action, including its influence on specific receptors in the brain.
Good sources of zinc include meat and seafood (particularly oysters). It’s perhaps worth bearing in mind that these protein rich food also help supply the amino acids (basic building blocks of protein) necessary for the formation of brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine (which are generally mood-enhancing).
1. Sawada T, et al. Effect of zinc supplementation on mood states in young women: a pilot study. Eur J Clin Nutr 2010;64(3):331-3
2. Nowak G, et al. Zinc and depression. An update. Pharmacological Reports 2005;57:713-8
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