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Mechanism by which vitamin D and omega-3 fats help brain function identified!

Posted:  Friday, March 06, 2015

It is known that vitamin D and marine omega-3 fatty acids help improve cognitive function in certain brain disorders. American researchers have now found out a possible mechanism by which these nutrients help reduce symptoms in brain disorders: they optimise brain serotonin concentrations and function.

Many clinical neurological conditions such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression are characterised by low brain serotonin levels. This study helps identify gene-micronutrient interactions and explains how their deficiencies influence neuropsychiatric outcomes. The results of this study are published in the FASEB journal.

According to the research, both vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids interact with genetic pathways such as the serotonin pathway. In addition, vitamin D gets converted to a steroid hormone which then controls more than 1000 genes, many in the brain.

Among the omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) increases the release of serotonin from pre-synaptic neurons by reducing the release of inflammatory prostaglandins. This shows how inflammation may negatively impact serotonin production. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), yet another omega-3 fatty acid, also influences the action of serotonin receptors by making them accessible to serotonin.

"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," said the researchers. The researchers suggest optimising the intake of vitamin D, EPA and DHA as a safe way to reduce the symptoms associated with brain disorders.

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