Depression – The Nutrition Connection

  • 31 Mar 2009
  • Reading time 17 mins
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There is little doubt that the incidence of depression is increasing. The Mynutrition survey we conducted on over 37,000 people found that 42% are frequently depressed, while 15% are clinically depressed, half of which consult their doctor.

Why would nutrition have anything to do with depression? Firstly, we have seen a significant decline in fruit and vegetable intake (rich in folic acid), in fish intake (rich in essential fats) and an increase in sugar consumption, from 2lbs a year in the 1940’s to 150lbs a year in many of today’s teenagers. Each of these nutrients are strongly linked to depression and could, theoretically, contribute to increasing rates of depression. Secondly, if depression is a biochemical imbalance it makes sense to explore how the brain normalises its own biochemistry, using nutrients as the precursors for key neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Thirdly, if 21st century living is extra-stressful, it would be logical to assume that increasing psychological demands would also increase nutritional requirements since the brain is structurally and functionally completely dependent on nutrients. So, what evidence is there to support sub-optimal nutrition as a potential contributor to depression? These are the common imbalances connected to nutrition that are known to worsen your mood and motivation:

• Blood sugar imbalances (often associated with excessive sugar and stimulant intake)
• Lack of chromium
• Lack of amino acids (tryptophan and tyrosine are precursors of serotonin and noradrenalin)
• Lack of B vitamins (vitamin B6, folate, B12)
• Lack of essential fats (omega 3)

One factor that often underlies depression is poor control of blood glucose levels. The symptoms of impaired blood sugar control are many, and include fatigue, irritability, dizziness, insomnia, excessive sweating (especially at night), poor concentration and forgetfulness, excessive thirst, depression and crying spells, digestive disturbances and blurred vision. These symptoms often preceed measurable abnormalities in blood glucose, manifesting first as a decreased sensitivity to insulin, known as insulin resistance. One of the world’s experts on blood sugar problems, Professor Gerald Reaven from Stanford University in California, estimates that 25 per cent of normal, non-obese people have ‘insulin resistance’. Since the brain depends on an even supply of glucose it is no surprise to find that sugar has been implicated in aggressive behaviour, anxiety, hyperactivity and attention deficit, depression, eating disorders, fatigue, and learning difficulties. The second reason excessive consumption of refined sugar is undesirable is that it uses up the body’s vitamins and minerals and provides next to none. Every teaspoon of sugar uses up ......

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