Antioxidants in Tea

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Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Mechanisms of Brain Protection

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have therapeutic effects in animals and humans. This effect is most pronounced where an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency exists. Omega-3 fatty acids have a number of effects on brain chemistry, but the exact mechanism by which omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to depressive disorders and anxiety disorders is not fully understood. Patients with depressive disorder have been shown to have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood compared to not depressed individuals. One explanation for this is that inflammation is a major cause of depression because it causes detrimental changes to brain chemistry including reductions in brain-derived neurotrophic factor. (BDNF). Omega-3 fatty acids may increase levels of BDNF and this may be one mechanism by which they have antidepressant effects. In order to provides benefits, omega-3 fatty acids must be balanced with omega-6 fatty acids in the diet. In fact, the ratio of the two may be more important than the actual total intakes of each fat.

omega-3 depression anxiety mood

A deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, schizophrenia, hostility, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Ensuring an optimal intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may be protective of these diseases and disorders. The importance of omega-3 fatty acids in brain health are demonstrated by the fact that astrocyte cells in brain tissue continually secrete the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid in order to bath neuronmes. Fish and their oils provide a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

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Logan, A. C. 2003. Neurobehavioral Aspects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Possible Mechanisms and Therapeutic Value in Major Depression. Alternative Medicine Review. 8(4): 410-425
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Omega-3 Fatty Acid Deficiency: Mood Disorders

The omega-3 fatty acid alpha linolenic acid (ALA, C18:3 (n-3)) is an essential fatty acid required by human for health. Alpha linolenic acid is metabolised to a number of hormone like substances called eicosanoids, and these have a wide range of effects on cell function. A deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids will eventually lead to death, but along this path there lies a number of chronic diseases and disorders that are attributable to an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency. A number of mood disorders including anxiety and depression may be caused by a deficiency of essential fatty acids. For example, in one study researchers investigated the effects of an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency in mice. The researchers isolated two groups of mice to induce stress and then monitored their behaviour. Mice that were deficient in omega-3 fatty acids were more likely to show anxious behaviour when isolated, when compared to mice that were not deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, suggesting the deficiency enhanced the susceptibility of the mice to stress.

flaxseeds anxiety depression mood

One of the best dietary source of alpha linolenic acid is flaxseeds. However, green leafy vegetables also contain reasonable amounts of alpha linolenic acid. Omega-3 fatty acid needs of humans can also be supplied by eating fish, which contains both eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, C20:5 (n-3)) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, C22:6 (n-3)).

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Harauma, A., and Moriguchi, T. 2011. Dietary n‐3 Fatty Acid Deficiency in Mice Enhances Anxiety Induced by Chronic Mild Stress. Lipids. 46(5): 409-416
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Omega-3 Fatty Acids To Treat Mood Disorders?

Evidence suggests that omega-3 fatty acids are required for correct brain function. A deficiency of the omega-3 fatty acids, particularly alpha linolenic acid (ALA, C18:3 (n-3) and its metabolites eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, C20:5 (n-3)) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, C20:6 (n-3)), has been linked to mood disorders in humans. Animal models suggest that changes to neurochemistry following deficits in omega-3 fatty acids can cause changes to behaviour that are similar to the generalised anxiety disorder and depressive disorders in humans. One explanation for the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids is that they increase membrane fluidity and this may have benefits for improving the efficiency of neurotransmitter modulation in the brain. Omega-3 fatty acids also modulate inflammation. As inflammation is associated with mood disorders, the attenuation of brain levels of inflammatory cytokines with omega-3 fatty acids supplementation may be another primary mechanism of action.

omega-3 fatty acids mood anxiety depression

The best source of omega-3 fatty acids are fish oils and green leafy vegetables. Fish oils contain the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, and green leafy vegetables contain the omega-3 fatty acid alpha linolenic acid.

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Parker, G., Gibson, N. A., Brotchie, H., Heruc, G., Rees, A. M. and Hadzi-Pavlovic, D. 2006. Omega-3 fatty acids and mood disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry. 163(6): 969-978
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Fish Oils Benefit Mental Health

Fish oils contain two fatty acids that are important to human health, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, C20:5 (n-3)) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, C20:6 (n-3)). Neither of these fatty acids are essential, but evidence shows that their addition to the diet provides significant health improvements where an essential fatty acid deficiency is present. One benefit of supplementation with fish oils is in mental function, as the fatty acids in fish oils have particular anti-inflammatory effects that could be beneficial to mood disorders. For example, in one study researchers administered either 2.5 grams  per day of fish oils (containing 2085 mg EPA and 348 mg DHA) or a capsule that contained the amount of EPA and DHA in the typical American diet to a group of medical students. The results of the study showed that the 2.5 gram fish oil capsules caused significant reduction in inflammatory markers and significant reductions in the anxiety levels of the subjects, compared to the placebo.

fish oils mood anxiety depression

Fish oils are beneficial to mental health because they have anti-inflammatory effects. Stress is a cause of mood disorders, and one of the physiological changes that occurs with stress is an increase in inflammation. The anti-inflammatory effects of fish oils can therefore be very beneficial when it comes to treating mood disorders.

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RdB

Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Belury, M. A., Andridge, R., Malarkey, W. B. and Glaser, R. 2011. Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: A randomized controlled trial. Brain Behavior and Immunity. 8(25): 1725-1734
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Vitamins, Minerals and Essential Fatty Acids: Improves Mental Health

Evidence suggests that deficiencies in essential factors is a causative factor in mental health problems. Essential factors are required for normal health and as their levels drop, mental and physical deterioration occurs. In one study, researchers investigated the supplementation of institutionalised young adult offenders with a vitamin, mineral and essential fatty acid formula. In addition, the subjects were also supplemented with a capsule containing essential fatty acids. The results of the study showed that the offenders supplemented with the essential factors showed significant and remarkable reductions in their anti-social behaviour following following supplementation from between 2 weeks to 9 months. The authors also noted that no subject withdrew from the study due to any adverse effects. The supplementation of humans subject with essential factors including vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids is able to alter mental function and significantly improve mood and social behaviour.

fish oils vitamin minerals anxiety depression

The vitamins and minerals present in the supplement given to the subjects in this study can be seen above. In addition the subject also received a capsule containing g 1260 mg linoleic acid, 160 mg gamma linolenic acid, 80 mg eicosapentaenoic acid and 44 mg docosahexaenoic acid. This supplementation protocol resulted in significant reductions in anxiety, depression and anger.

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Gesch, C. B., Hammond, S. M., Hampson, S. E., Eves, A. and Crowder, M. J. 2002. Influence of supplementary vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids on the antisocial behaviour of young adult prisoners: Randomised, placebo-controlled trial. The British Journal of Psychiatry. 181(1): 22-28
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Winter Vitamin D

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Milk Thistle (Silymarin marianum): An Antioxidant and A Neuroprotective Agent

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Dietary Ingredients for Mental Health

There is now strong evidence that diet is one of the main factors that can lead to poor mental health. In particular, poor diet has been linked to anxiety and depression. Therefore, it stands to reason that a healthy high quality diet should not only be protective of mental health, but also reverse any anxiety or depression caused by a poor diet. Such a diet has not been described in its entirety, but studies in humans indicate that the diet should contain a number of factors. Firstly, there needs to be the presence of all essential factors including vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids in the correct proportions. In particular a number of mineral deficiencies including magnesium, chromium, selenium, iron and zinc have been associated with mood disorders. As well as these essential factors, evidence shows that a number of phytochemicals, especially polyphenols, are highly protective of mental health. This may be because they are effective antioxidants, which suggests that the diet should also be high in other antioxidants.

anxiety mood depression

The main cause of poor mental health is undoubtedly stress. Some individuals cope with stress better than others, and these people may be protected from poor mental health by favourable genetic traits. However, a healthy diet is highly protective of poor mental health because it allows individuals to adapt to stress more readily. Adaptogenic herbs such as ginseng, rhodiola and brahmi may also be useful because they decrease the response to stress in humans.

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Magnesium Regulates Brain Excitability

Magnesium ions play an important role in human nutrition. One role that has been suggested for magnesium is as a neuroprotective agent. This role may be explained because magenium appears to have the ability to regulate the NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor in the brain. In the brain, the NMDA receptor is an ion-gated receptor that when activated allows calcium to to cross membranes, and this leads to excitatory impulses in adjacent neurones. Activation of this receptor has been suggested to lead to brain injury through a mechanism by which over-excitability of neurones causes toxicity and this leads to neuronal dysfunction and death. Magnesium is able to regulate the NMDA receptor because it can block the transport of calcium ions across the membrane and this decreases the ability of calcium ions to cause excitability in cells. This role as an NMDA antagonist may explain the ability of magnesium to improve mood disorders such as depressive disorder and the general anxiety disorder.

magnesium anxiety depression mood

Experiments show that magnesium ions administered to rats are protective of brain injury through regulation of the NMDA receptor. Dietary magnesium in human nutrition may play a similar role. Magnesium deficiencies may cause over-activation of the NMDA receptor and lead to excitotoxicity in neurones.

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McDonald, J. W., Silverstein, F. S. and Johnston, M. V. 1990. Magnesium reduces (NMDA)-mediated brain injury in perinatal rats. Neuroscience Letters. 109: 234-238
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