Caring for our children's future

Omega-3, Vitamin D and Behaviour

04 Mar 2015 4:01 PM | Anonymous

Date: February 25, 2015
Source: UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland


Although essential omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D have been shown to improve cognitive function and behaviour in the context of certain brain disorders, the underlying mechanism has been unclear. In a new paper published in FASEB Journal, serotonin is explained as the possible missing link tying together why vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids might ameliorate the symptoms associated with a broad array of brain disorders.

Serotonin affects a wide-range of cognitive functions and behaviors including mood, decision-making, social behavior, impulsive behavior, and even plays a role in social decision-making by keeping in check aggressive social responses or impulsive behavior.
Many clinical disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression share as a unifying attribute low brain 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."

Their paper illuminates the mechanistic links that explain why low vitamin D, which is mostly produced by the skin when exposed to sun, and omega-3 deficiencies interacts with genetic pathways, such as the serotonin pathway, that are important for brain development, social cognition, and decision-making, and how these gene-micronutrient interactions may influence neuropsychiatric outcomes. "Vitamin D, which is converted to a steroid hormone that controls about 1,000 genes, many in the brain, is a major deficiency in the US and omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies are very common because people don't eat enough fish," said Dr. Ames.

This publication suggests that optimizing intakes of vitamin D and omega-3 fattyacids would optimize brain serotonin concentrations and function, possibly preventing and ameliorating some of the symptoms associated with these disorders without side effects.

Reference
Patrick, R. P., & Ames, B. N. (2015). Vitamin D and the omega-3 fatty acids control serotonin synthesis and action, part 2: relevance for ADHD, bipolar, schizophrenia, and impulsive behavior. FASEB Journal, DOI:10.1096/fj.14-268342

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