Serotonin regulation could explain why vitamin D benefits many brain disorders, as do marine omega-3 fatty acids, a new study finds.
Depression, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder and even schizophrenia have all been linked to low levels of vitamin D and omega-3.
Low levels of serotonin have been found to impair memory, planning, social behaviour and increase impulsiveness and aggression.
Supplementation with these essential nutrients has shown promise in improving some of these conditions.
Until now, though, scientists have been unsure of the mechanism of how omega-3 and vitamin D benefits such a wide range of conditions.
Vitamin D benefits
The new study, published in the FASEB Journal, finds that the link could be how they interact with serotonin, a vital neurotransmitter (Patrick & Ames, 2015).
Dr Rhonda P. Patrick, the study’s first author,
“In this paper we explain how serotonin is a critical modulator of executive function, impulse control, sensory gating, and pro-social behavior.
We link serotonin production and function to vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, suggesting one way these important micronutrients help the brain function and affect the way we behave.”
Vitamin D is mostly produced in the body when sun strikes the skin, which is why these levels tend to be much lower in the winter.
Along with low levels of vitamin D, many people do not eat enough fish and so have low levels of two critical marine omega-3 fatty acids — Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Dr Patrick said:
“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,”
The researchers think that the correct intake of both omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D benefits many brain disorders.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Serotonin image from Shutterstock