disorders are treated using pharmaceutical drugs. Although these drugs are
highly effective, some of them come with severe side effects. For example,
lithium that is used in the treatment of bipolar disorder causes side effects
such as weight gain, increased thirst and urination, muscle weakness, hand
tremors, hair loss, impaired memory, drowsiness and decreased thyroid function.
Earlier studies have shown that a lack of
certain dietary nutrients, especially, essential vitamins, minerals, and
omega-3 fatty acids contribute to the development of mental disorders
daily supplementation of vital nutrients, more so, supplements containing amino
acids can effectively reduce the symptoms of major depression, bipolar depression,
schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, ADD (attention deficit disorder), ADHD
(attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), addiction and even autism.
So, what does nutrition have to
do with mental depression? 'The brain is a chemical factory that produces
serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and other brain chemicals 24 hours a day.
The only raw materials for their syntheses are nutrients, namely, amino acids,
vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, etc. If the brain receives improper
amounts of these nutrient building blocks, we can expect serious problems with
our neurotransmitters,' explains Dr Rima Laibow from Natural Solutions
For example, omega-3 and omega-6
are essential fatty acids that are obtained through diet. Omega-6 leads to
production of arachidonic acid and eicosanoids which promote inflammation,
platelet clotting and production of prostaglandins. Omega-3 produces
eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) that possess
anti-inflammatory properties and decrease platelet stickiness. When the
proportion of omega-6 becomes 20 times that of omega-3, DHA depletes causing a
change in neurotransmitter receptors leading to dysregulation of serotonins.
In other words, omega-3 helps the brain
to transmit signals that enable proper thinking, moods and emotions.
According to Dr
Jerry Cott, a senior pharmacologist at the FDA Center for Drug Research and
Review, countries in which individuals consume a large amount of fish are at
lower risk for mental disorders such as major depression. This is because fish
and fish oil contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
and Karen Vieira from the Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation, Los
Angeles, reviewed the available literature on nutritional therapies for mental
disorders focusing on the nutritional deficiencies that are associated with
mental disorders and outlined how dietary supplements can be implemented in the
treatment of four most common mental disorders: major depression, bipolar
disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
This is what
they came up with:
- Caused by a
combination of stress, genes and temperament, major depression is a disorder
that has symptoms viz. bad moods, sleeping problems, increased sadness and
anxiety, loss of appetite and loss of interest in daily activities. In addition
to omega-3, vitamin B (folate) and magnesium deficiencies are also linked to
depression. Clinical trials and case studies show that 0.8mg of folic acid per day or
0.4mg of vitamin B12 per day or 125mg to 300mg of magnesium helps reduce
Bipolar disorder -
This disorder is
characterized by debilitating depression, uncontrollable mania or a manic and
depressive episode. Biochemical abnormalities include excess vanadium and
acetylcholine, taurine (amino acid that plays a role in the brain by eliciting
a calming effect) deficiency, omega-3 deficiency, and vitamins B and C
deficiency. Vitamin C has been shown to protect the body from the damage caused
by excess vanadium. A controlled study revealed that a single 3g dose of
vitamin C could significantly decrease manic symptoms. Other studies show that 1 to
2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of EPA added to one's daily intake
decreases manic/depressive symptoms
. Interestingly, studies have shown
that taurine can be used as an alternative to lithium (prescription medication
for bipolar disorder). This is because taurine blocks the effects of excess
acetylcholine that contributes to bipolar disorder.
- It is a mental disorder
characterized by abnormalities in the perception or expression of reality. It
most commonly manifests as hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, and speech /
thinking impairments. Studies have shown that EPA, which is found in omega-3
fish oils, can be used to treat schizophrenia. Trials reveal that 2g of
EPA taken daily in addition to one's existing medication effectively decreases
symptoms in schizophrenic patients.
- OCD is
an anxiety disorder which causes recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and
/ or repetitive behaviors (compulsions), which are repeated in an
uncontrollable manner as a means of repressing the stressful thought. Selective
serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are known to help patients with OCD. A
supplement called Amoryn with St. John's wort as its main ingredient, has been
shown to help OCD patients better deal with their obsessions and compulsions.
depict that nutritive supplements can be effective treatments for mental
'Proper medical diagnosis and a clear description of all possible
treatment options should always be the first plan of action when treating
mental disorders. However, the final decision on whether or not to try
nutritional supplements as a treatment must be based on the patient
'Those with influence in this field should continue to examine natural
treatments on the scientific level in order to increase the availability of
grant money for this type of research'.
'Psychiatrists treating patients with mental disorders should be aware
of available nutritional therapies, appropriate doses, and possible side
effects in order to provide alternative and complementary treatments for their
Lakhan SE, Vieira KF. Nutritional therapies for
mental disorders. Nutr J. 2008 Jan 21;7:2.