Practical tips to help you reach your health goals
Let's go over a few key nutrients that influence our moods.
B-vitamins such as B6, B9 (folic acid), and B12
People who tend to be low in B-vitamins are more likely to have mental health issues. Higher intakes of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and B12 (cobalamin) may reduce risk.
With folic acid in particular, the connection may be due to its different forms. “Folic acid” is the inactive form of vitamin B9. Our bodies naturally converted it into the active form (called L-methylfolate) by the enzyme methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR).
Once folic acid has been activated, it goes to the brain and is used to make neurotransmitters like serotonin, melatonin, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.
Interestingly, many people with mental health issues are unable to convert folic acid into its active form.
One study tested supplements with the active form of folic acid (L-methylfolate) on people with mental health issues. While some people had a moderate improvement, the people who also had inflammation (higher levels of CRP) had an even greater improvement.
Vitamin D is well known to help absorb calcium for strong bones, but has many other functions too. In terms of immunity, vitamin D can reduce inflammatory molecules in people with certain infections and inflammatory diseases. Vitamin D has a number of roles within the brain. Vitamin D plays a role in circadian rhythms and sleep, and influences the growth of nerve cells in the developing brain.
There is growing evidence that people who tend to be low in vitamin D also tend to have more mental health symptoms. In fact, some (but not all) studies show that vitamin D supplementation can improve mood scores and reduce mental health symptoms.
Vitamin D is the most commonly deficient nutrient in Western countries. It’s known as the “sunshine vitamin” because our skin makes it when exposed to sunlight. It is also found in a few foods, and as a supplement.
Minerals (Calcium & Selenium)
Low intake of calcium is associated with mental health symptoms, while high intake is associated with lower rates of mental health symptoms.
Depression has been associated with low blood levels of the essential mineral selenium. Low intake of selenium is also associated with an increased risk for depression.
Omega-3 oils are healthy fats found in many foods such as seafood, nuts, legumes, and leafy greens. They have been shown to reduce inflammation.
Some (but not all) studies suggest that the omega-3 fats, specifically those found in fish and fish oil, have mental health benefits.
Berk, M., Williams, L. J., Jacka, F. N., O’Neil, A., Pasco, J. A., Moylan, S., … Maes, M. (2013). So depression is an inflammatory disease, but where does the inflammation come from? BMC Medicine, 11, 200. http://doi.org/10.1186/1741-7015-11-200 LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3846682/ Dash, S. R., O’Neil, A., & Jacka, F. N. (2016). Diet and Common Mental Disorders: The Imperative to Translate Evidence into Action. Frontiers in Public Health, 4, 81. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2016.00081 LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4850164/
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MUGA is a Community based Fun and Fitness movement created by the Mauritius Telecom Foundation. Its mission is to promote healthy living through physical activity and education for all segments of the population. MUGA aims to achieve its objective by creating sustainable infrastructure, promoting activities through the use of technology and leveraging on the active collaboration of the government, local authorities and community.