Vitamin D and Omega 3 Oils are Essential to Your Mental Health

May 4th, 2015 by NHI

Depression has become a modern epidemic, affecting more than 120 million people worldwide. With advancing age, it’s also a major risk factor for dementia.

But the more you investigate depression, the more one fact becomes apparent: Much of the proliferation of this mental condition may be the result of bad advice from doctors.

Think about what doctors often give people who are depressed – drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These include drugs like Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa and Lexapro.

SSRIs are supposed to help the brain retain more serotonin, a neurotransmitter reputed to keep your mood upbeat. But meanwhile, another group of doctors is undermining your SSRI levels. . .

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While one group of doctors hands out pills right and left to boost SSRI levels, other practitioners – dermatologists – are telling people to stay out of the sun to keep the skin from tanning and burning.

How are those two facts related? Researchers now know that missing out on the vitamin D your skin makes from the sun can lead to depression in many people. Not only that – the body uses vitamin D to produce serotonin, the very neurotransmitter that medical folks often think we lack!

You can see what I’m getting at – If more people got more vitamin D from sunlight, there might be fewer depressed people who think they need to take antidepressant drugs.

Lack of Vitamin D

It looks like medical research is starting to catch up with this paradox. A study at Oregon State University has demonstrated that low levels of vitamin D in the body are linked to an increased risk of depression in women who are otherwise healthy.

The study looked at young women who live in the Pacific Northwest who have a big risk for depression. As it happens, they also live in a part of the country that is notorious for its cloudy, dreary weather. During the winter months, what little sunshine there is in this region isn’t strong enough to stimulate much vitamin D production in the body.1

Researcher David Kerr, a Ph.D. and Associate Professor at Oregon State, observes that “Depression has multiple, powerful causes and if vitamin D is part of the picture, it is just a small part. But given how many people are affected by depression, any little inroad we can find could have an important impact on public health.”

Making Serotonin

Meanwhile, a study at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute has unraveled the intricate relationship among vitamin D, omega-3 fats (such as those found in fish oil) and the brain’s production of serotonin.2

This research shows that vitamin D is crucial for serotonin production — it controls the body’s conversion of the essential amino acid tryptophan into serotonin.

Omega-3s help with serotonin by stimulating its release from one set of the brain’s neurons and then easing serotonin’s passage into other neurons that need it to function properly. The Oakland scientists note that we are not getting enough vitamin D or omega-3s to keep our brains healthy.

“Vitamin D, which is converted to a steroid hormone that controls about 1,000 genes, many in the brain, is a major deficiency in the US and omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies are very common because people don’t eat enough fish,” says researcher Bruce Ames.

And you can’t argue with the Oregon researchers who think that even if vitamin D supplements aren’t a panacea, more people should take them – “Vitamin D supplements are inexpensive and readily available,” says Dr. Kerr. “They certainly shouldn’t be considered as alternatives to the treatments known to be effective for depression, but they are good for overall health.”

By the way, those dermatologists mentioned near the beginning of this article – the ones who tell you to stay out of the sun – are they on to something? As the editor of a cancer newsletter, I happen to know a thing or two about this.

The danger of exposure to sun is greatly overrated. Moderate sun exposure is not going to hurt you – I do advise avoiding burns or deep tans. But the benefits of vitamin D far outweigh the tiny risk of serious skin cancer. Melanoma, the life-threatening skin cancer, is rare. Overwhelmingly, the link between sun and skin cancer involves basal cell carcinoma, which is just about harmless.

Your skin can manufacture an enormous amount of vitamin D with only a small amount of sun exposure – as little as fifteen minutes a day in the summer.

Best Regards,

Lee Euler

Publisher


References:

1 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25791903
2 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25713056

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