Nutritional Deficiencies and Depression

i all. I hope you enjoyed my article on Honey last week, I really enjoyed learning more about it. Now, as I mentioned at the top of the article last week. This week, I would like to write about depression. 

Depression is one of a number of disorders that affect over 45% of Australians at some point in their lives. It is estimated that 6 - 7% of youths aged 16 to 24 will experience depression, with rates generally higher in females than males. It is no coincidence that  with the increase of such poor diets seen within the Australian population and the higher rate of depression seen within our youth, that nutritional deficiencies are a leading factor. 

Poor diet, will generally lead to malnutrition and cause imbalance in the body. In the case of depression, studies show that there are several key nutrients that play a major role in homeostasis of the brain, including:

  • Zinc
  • Vitamin D
  • Omega 3



Zinc is noted as one of the most important minerals required in the body and there are a number of studies that show a deficiency in Zinc, emulates a depressed like state. In a study focusing on 'Zinc deficiency in anorexia nervosa' patients who received doses of 50mg/d of elemental Zinc were found to have improvements in cognitive and motor function. In the brain, Zinc functions as a neurotransmitter and is needed for proper function. This therefore may be a reason connecting zinc deficiency and depression. Primary intake of zinc comes from red meats. So in many cases, it is found that there are also Iron and Folate deficiencies but studies looking into this are inconclusive.

A study published in 'Biological Trace Element Research' took place in Malaysia took 402 post grad students from Iran and looked at Zinc levels in relation to depression.

"Both depression scores and clinical depression (scores ≥16) were higher in individuals whose daily intake of zinc was less than the DRI."

This study suggests that with zinc levels lower than the daily recommended intake depression rates increase.

"The results indicate that 15% of depression symptoms was reduced for each gram intake of zinc per day."

new study at Deakin University, is looking into the connection between diet and depression. They will be using 'The Mediterranean Diet' and 'A Red Meat Diet' to find if an improved diet will alleviate depression. It is claimed to be the first study of its kind. Diet as a therapeutic target in depression: A randomised control trial

Types of foods that can provide you with Zinc

Types of foods that can provide you with Zinc

Vitamin D

itamin D is a secosteroid that is produced by the body when our skin is exposed to sunlight, UVB rays more specifically. It is converted into Calcitriol in the body, this is the biologically active version of vitamin D and is responsible for regulating the circulating vitamins in the blood. 

In an issue of a medical journal, Nursing Standard. A study for depression relating to vitamin d deficiency in the elderly.

"Women who had 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels less than 50nmol/1, compared with those with higher levels, experienced increases in depression scores of 2.1 (P=0.02) and 2.2 (P=0.04) points higher at three and six-year follow-up respectively. Women with low vitamin D also had significantly higher risk of developing depressive mood over the follow-up (hazard ratio 2.0).
... Men with low vitamin D tended to have a higher risk of developing depressed mood (hazard ratio 1.6)

In this study we see as the concentration of vitamin D decreases as the depression test scores rises. Suggesting that D deficiency relates to depression.

study looking into how Vitamin D deficiency s associated with anxiety and depression in fibromyalgia, found that there was no correlation with fibromyalgia and depression but the patients with vitamin D deficiency received a higher Hospital Anxiety and Depression Score.  

A form of depression that was noted back in 1984 is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a form of depression that is triggered by low levels of Vitamin D. Treatment for this is light therapy. Vitamin D3 supplementation may also have a therapeutic effect on Seasonal Affective Disorder.

We can get sufficient amounts of vitamin D from daily sun exposure

We can get sufficient amounts of vitamin D from daily sun exposure

nd finally we have..


Omega-3 is widely accepted as having anti-inflammatory properties and is used to help with Cardiovascular Disease and developmental disorders. There has been research into use of Omega-3 with depression, but there is worry about bias study results. It is suggested that with the lowered average intake of seafood, there is a higher risk for omega-3 deficient induced depression.

In a study by Alan R. Gaby published in Townsend Letter, he comments that


"Depressed patients have been found to have low levels of circulating omega-3 fatty acids, or low levels relative to the concentration of omega-6 fatty acids... The results of the present study suggest that omega -3 fatty acids are beneficial for depressed patients only if they do not also suffer from an anxiety disorder."

he information that we do have on the effects of EPA and DHA is that they compete with arachidonic acid. The presence of EPA and DHA alone may reduce inflammation in the brain causing neurons to communicate as needed. 

2000mg/d of Omega-3 is the general recommended dosage for a healthy person. In a clinical setting, it is common for the recommended dosage to be increased to 9600mg/d. Throughout a variety of mental disorders, Omega-3 is used prominently in Nutritional therapies for mental disorders

Seafood is a great source for Omega-3

Seafood is a great source for Omega-3

In no way am I suggesting that diet alone will solve all cases of depression but there is most certainly a percentage of people that may be aided by dietary intervention. So, with all of this in mind. We can take this view.

Making sure, that we eat a good portion of red meat, seafood and have a nice healthy amount of sunlight, between 20 to 30 minutes a day. We can significantly reduce our risk of depression. And when we do find symptoms of depression, there is good chance that we can aid in the rehabilitation via nutrition and correct supplementation.