Nutrition can help depression

University research shows that certain health supplements and combinations of foods and nutrients can not only improve overall mood but even reduce the incidence, length and severity of depression.

Omega 3

Rollmop-caper-bruschettaPeople who are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids are generally more susceptible to depression and low mood. The brain has a high component of fatty acids and about 30% of these are Omega 3, according to the Mental Health Foundation. Intake of Omega 3 assists the production of dopamine –  the ‘reward’ neurotransmitter that responds to pleasurable experiences. Walnuts are a good source of plant-based Omega 3, but the body metabolises plant omega 3 less efficiently than fish oil.


Gelbwurz / CurryThe health benefits of curcumin (derived from turmeric) are well documented and wide ranging. It’s known to be an anti-inflammatory, has anti-cancer properties and is neuroprotective. But research published by The US National Institutes of Health now indicates it may even be as effective as Prozac (fluoxetine) – but without the side effects.

Their conclusion: “This study provides first clinical evidence that curcumin may be used as an effective and safe modality for treatment in patients with MDD [major depressive disorder] without concurrent suicidal ideation or other psychotic disorders.”


Studies at the University of Wales have shown that people who are low in selenium have increased rates of depression, anxiety and tiredness and that optimising selenium intake helps raise mood and reduce depression.


Chromium is a trace mineral involved in the regulation of insulin and thus metabolism. It has an important role in raising the brain’s level of serotonin and melatonin which help the brain regulate emotion, mood and sleep. Research at Duke University in the US has found that supplementation helps in the treatment of depression.


Magnesium has an important role in the development of serotonin, which is a major contributor to feelings of happiness. Researchers in Austin, Texas have shown that supplementation contributes to an improvement in mood and a reduction in depression.

Vitamin D

sun-F-247x185If there ever was a super-nutrient, it is surely vitamin D. Most people are depleted in Vitamin D, especially in the 5 months of winter. In addition to its role in supporting the production of healthy cells and a strong immune system, a major study at the Chicago School of Nursing has shown that Vitamin D supplementation improves mood and reduces depression. Their conclusion?

… Treatment of inadequate vitamin D levels in persons with depression and other mental disorders may be an easy and cost-effective therapy which could improve patients’ long-term health outcomes as well as their quality of life”.


Zinc is a vital trace mineral needed for a strong immune system. In addition, Canadian researchers have found that it can help treat depression.

Vitamin B6

Researchers in a large UK hospital have successfully used vitamin B6 in the treatment of PMS depression. B6 is essential in regulating general brain function.

Folic Acid/Folate

spinchFolate, the B vitamin found in leafy green vegetables, assists in the regulation of serotonin and the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. They are both important in the passing of messages between brain cells. Researchers at the Neuropsychiatric Research Laboratory in Surrey have combined folic acid and vitamin B12 to help treat depression. Folate or folic acid may also increase the effectiveness of the anti-depressant fluoxetine.


bananaThe amino acid tryptophan – in conjunction with vitamin B6 – raises the level of the hormone serotonin, which in turn helps elevate your mood. Deficiencies in B6 can cause a lowering of immune function and depression. Bananas not only contain tryptophan but vitamin B6, and fibre.  Fibre helps ensure that energy is slowly released into the bloodstream, so it helps keep your blood sugar and mood stable. The opposite is a ‘sugar rush’ where blood sugar levels rise but then dip quickly, leaving you feeling irritable.

Other foods that are above average in tryptophan are chicken and turkey.

Lentils, oats and whole grains

These are complex carbohydrates which have a low GI (Glycaemic Index), which helps stabilise your blood sugar levels and therefore mood.

Dark chocolate

Broken dark chocolate and chocolate flakes on a wooden tableIn a recent study, 30 people were given just 40g of dark chocolate a day, over 14 days. They produced less stress hormones and their anxiety levels decreased. A small square of dark chocolate contains polyphenols which cause the brain to release endorphins and boost serotonin levels.


A study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition linked higher calcium intake to lower levels of PMS-related depression. This makes sense as (o)estrogen plays a significant role in calcium production. There was no indication, however, that increased calcium had any effect on male moods.


Flower crocus and dried saffron spiceIn an innovative study at Tehran University of Medical Sciences, 50 women with PMS were given just 15 mg of saffron daily over two menstrual cycles.  By the end of the study, over three-quarters of the women reported that their PMS symptoms (such as mood swings and depression) declined by at least half, compared with only 8 percent of women in the placebo group.

Green tea

Green tea contains high levels of the amino acid theanine, which has been shown to be an anti-stress relaxant.

Conclusion – Mediterranean Diet plus supplement

I am conscious that if you suffer from depression or just want to boost your general mood, a list like this can be both encouraging but also a bit confusing.

But the overall conclusion is that there is evidence from many clinical trials that a largely Mediterranean Diet supported by a supplement that safely increases your intake of curcumin, Omega 3, vitamin D3, B vitamins, folic acid, zinc, chromium, selenium and green tea extract is very likely to help.

NutriShield contains all these nutrients at effective levels.


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You can follow us on or for daily headline health tweets.

Dr Paul Clayton designed NutriShield as a comprehensive healthbutton-2 supplement with OPTIMUM levels of essential nutrients. See more detail elsewhere on this site or click on the button.

Health Defence bookDr Paul Clayton’s best-selling book Health Defence is available from most good bookstores. See the website for excerpts and links to buy direct from the publisher.

See online here for delicious recipes from the Health Defence Cookbook  incorporating healthy foods featuring in a Mediterranean Diet. Combined 3 courses strip


Sanmukhani J, Satodia V, Trivedi J, Patel T, Tiwari D, Panchal B, Goel A, Tripathi CB. Efficacy and safety of curcumin in major depressive disorder: a randomized controlled trial. Phytother Res. 2014 Apr;28(4):579-85. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5025. Epub 2013 Jul 6.

Benton D. Selenium intake, mood and other aspects of psychological functioning. Nutritional Neuroscience 2002

Haag, M. Department of Physiology, University of Pretoria, South Africa. Essential fatty acids and the brain. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 2003, 2003 Apr; 48(3):195-203

Jacka, F.N., Pasco, J.A., Mykletun, A., et al. Association of Western and traditional diets with depression and anxiety in women.  Department of Clinical and Biomedical Sciences, University of Melbourne, Australia. American Journal of Psychiatry, 2010 Mar; 167(3):305-11

Kemper, K., Shannon, S. Pediatric Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Therapies to Promote Healthy Moods. Clinics of North America, 2007 December; 54(6): 901–926

Sue Penckofer, PhD, RN, Joanne Kouba, PhD, RD, Mary Byrn, BSN, RN, and Carol Estwing Ferrans, PhD, RN, FAAN. Vitamin D and Depression: Where is all the Sunshine? Ment Health Nurs. 2010 Jun; 31(6): 385–393.doi:  10.3109/01612840903437657

Thys-Jacobs S. Metabolic Bone Micronutrients and the premenstrual syndrome: the case for calcium. Center, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, Columbia University, New York, New York. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2000 Apr; 19 (2):220-7

Docherty, J.P., Sack, D.A., Roffman, M. et al. Effectiveness of chromium in atypical depression: a placebo-controlled trial. Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, North Carolina. Biological Psychiatry, 2003 Feb 1; 53(3):261-4

Coppen, A., Bolander-Gouaille, C. Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12. MRC Neuropsychiatric Research Laboratory, Surrey, UK. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2005 Jan; 19(1):59-65

Coppen A, Bailey J. Enhancement of the antidepressant action of fluoxetine by folic acid: a randomized, placebo controlled trial. Journal of Affect Disorders. 2000 Nov; 60(2):121–130

Conklin, S.M., Harris, J.I., Manuck, S.B., et al. Serum omega-3 fatty acids are associated with variation in mood, personality and behavior in hypercholesterolemic community volunteers.  Cardiovascular Behavioral Medicine Postdoctoral Training Program, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA. Psychiatry Research, 2007 Jul 30; 152(1):1-10

Wyatt, K.M., Dimmock, P.W., Jones, P.W. Efficacy of vitamin B-6 in the treatment of PMS. Academic Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, North Staffordshire Hospital. BMJ, 1999 May 22’318 (7195): 1375-81

Eby, G.A., Eby, K.L. Magnesium for treatment-resistant depression: a review and hypothesis. George Eby Research Institute, Austin, Texas. Medical Hypotheses. 2010 Apr;74(4):649-60

Milaneschi, Y., Hoogendijk, W., Lips, P., et al. The association between low vitamin D and depressive disorders. Department of Psychiatry and EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research and Neuroscience Campus Amsterdam, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Molecular Psychiatry 2013 Apr 9

Swardfager, W., Herrmann, N., McIntyre, R.S., et al. Potential roles of zinc in the pathophysiology and treatment of major depressive disorder. Neuropharmacology Research Group, Sunnybrook Research Institute, Toronto, Canada. Neuroscience and Bio-behavioral Review 2013 Jun;37(5):911-29

Where are you on the happiness scale?

BewertungAre you a clergyman or a florist?  According to research, you are very likely to be happy.

Or a roofer or a banker? If so you are probably at the opposite end of the occupational happiness scale.

But assuming you are in none of these occupations, where are you on the happiness scale?

The largest survey of opinions, behaviours and demographics in the world is the General Social Survey by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. Time Magazine recently used the survey to map the most to least happiness score for occupations, ages and family status. The results may surprise you.

Here is what they found – from the jobs that provide the most happiness to the least. And to provide geographical balance to their list, we have also summarised the UK’s biggest happiness at work survey conducted by City and Guilds, the skills development organisation.

The results are inevitably different – (a) because the US research concentrated on general categories (albeit it seems to have missed out some common jobs), and (b) the UK research was focused on the sorts of occupation that City and Guild training courses cover.

Click here for results

Despite some issues with the research, you can make conclusions:

  • Making a difference’ is not just a phrase. People whose job it is to help others really do seem to be happier.
  • And ‘working in a pleasant environment’ and ‘doing something worthwhile and useful’ are common denominators.
  • No-one in either the US or UK list mentioned money as their main motivator!

“The person born with a talent they are meant to use will find their greatest happiness in using it.” Johann Wolfang von Goethe

Beyond occupation, the US survey had some interesting things to say about age and marriage.


What percentage of people describe themselves as “HAPPY”?

Retired 38%
In full time work 33%
In part time work 31%
Unemployed 18%
Over 65 38%
55-64 35%
35-44 33%
18-24 27%
Married no children 41%
Married with children 36%
Single parent 17%
Attend religious service weekly 41%
Attend religious service monthly 32%
Seldom or never attend 28%


Conclusion? Becoming older is no barrier to being happy. Community involvement – such as in attending a religious service – is an important contributor to happiness.

How many are very happy?

Very happy 33%
Quite happy 55%
Not very happy 11%


What’s the connection between health and happiness?

A review of more than 160 studies has found ‘clear and compelling evidence’ that — all else being equal — ” … happy people tend to live longer and experience better health than their unhappy peers”.

This was the conclusion of a meta-survey published in the Journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, which was the most comprehensive review so far of the evidence linking happiness to health outcomes. Its lead author was University of Illinois Professor Emeritus of Psychology Ed Diener, who also is a senior scientist for the Gallup Organization.

One of the studies included in the meta-survey followed nearly 5,000 university students for more than 40 years and found that those who were most pessimistic as students tended to die younger than their classmates.

Various other university studies published in the last 10 years show that:

  • People who rate themselves as very happy have a lower risk of heart disease
  • Happier people when exposed to rhinovirus (the cold virus) were less likely to develop a cold. Their immune systems were stronger.
  • Women suffering from osteoarthritis reported lower levels of pain the happier they were
  • People who exercise at least three times a week have lower depression levels than average
  • People who smile more frequently generally have lower heart rates

Of course it’s (fairly) obvious that being healthy is a major factor in your happiness level. But less obvious is the impact of food and nutrition on mood.

The impact of food and nutrients on happiness

Surveys show that a comprehensive daily supplement like NutriShield can improve overall mood. Respondents reported that it reduced or in some cases even eliminated a previous depressed state.

This may well be because it contains almost all of the specific nutrients that science confirms are mood enhancers and which help reduce depression.

See more detail in this article: Nutrition Can Help Depression

Can you make yourself more happy?


Apart from nutrition, there is now clear research that indicates specific ways to improve your own happiness.

In a future post, I will summarise the top 10 actions taken from the latest neuroscience and from psychological research that will increase your own happiness level. So stay tuned!


If you enjoyed this article, please share it with family and friends (see buttons below).

CTA Register NewsletterAnd register now for a free e-newsletter on the latest in nutrition and health research.

You can follow us on or for daily headline health tweets.

Dr Paul Clayton designed NutriShield as a comprehensive healthbutton-2 supplement with OPTIMUM levels of essential nutrients. See more detail elsewhere on this site or click on the button.

Health Defence bookDr Paul Clayton’s best-selling book Health Defence is available from most good bookstores. See the website for excerpts and links to buy direct from the publisher.

See online here for delicious recipes from the Health Defence Cookbook  incorporating healthy foods featuring in a Mediterranean Diet. Combined 3 courses strip