Vitamin D & Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Vitamin D & omega-3 Fatty Acids
Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acid supplementation have been widely studied for the positive effects they could have for people suffering from anxiety, depression, ADHD, autism and many other brain disorders.
Serotonin is a chemical (monoamine neurotransmitter) that carries messages between nerve cells in the brain and throughout the body. Serotonin is made from tryptophan, an essential amino acid, which means it cannot be made by the body. It must be obtained from food and supplements. 90% of serotonin is found in the cells lining the body’s gastrointestinal tract, the gut. It is released into your blood circulation and absorbed by platelets.
As a neurotransmitter, hormone and brain morphogen, serotonin plays a huge role in brain function. It influences body temperature, sleep, sexual behavior, hunger, learning, memory, happiness, etc. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that links serotonin to social behavior defects, such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, aggression, and impulsive behavior.
But cognitive functioning requires neurons, biochemical pathways, and enzymes to all work together. Many of these enzymes require micronutrients (essential vitamins and minerals) as cofactors for optimal function. Thus, inadequate intakes of these micronutrients have been shown to influence the serotonin pathway – specifically, vitamin D and two marine omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Two senior scientists from the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute conducted a study to try and determine why supplementation with vitamin D and omega-3 have been shown to improve cognitive function and behavior in these brain disorders. Their model shows that insufficient levels of vitamin D, EPA or DHA would lead to dysfunctional serotonin and may be one underlying mechanism that contributes to neuropsychiatric disorders and depression. Thus, vitamin D and marine omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may help prevent and regulate the severity of brain dysfunction.
Rhonda Patrick and Bruce Ames’ research was published in a 2015 article for The FASEB Journal, which can be read in its entirety here