Researchers have stumbled on a super-powered duo of nutrients that may be able to rescue your brain from the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other debilitating disorders.
According to some of the most advanced research, this pair of nutrients can help the brain make more serotonin, a neurotransmitter crucial to keeping your mental abilities intact and banishing depression.
Run out of serotonin and you may run out of memories – and suffer from a case of the blues, to boot! This new discovery suggests a way to keep that from happening. . .
Just a few years ago, scientists didn’t know that serotonin problems are connected to memory loss and may be an important cause of it.
That’s changed. A study at Johns Hopkins has now linked impairment of the distribution of serotonin to brain cells with the beginning stages of declining cognition and ability to recall recent events.1
Previously, researchers had found that folks with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia had experienced drastic loss of neurons that produce and distribute serotonin. But nobody knew if the loss of these neurons and the drop in serotonin was a result of the disease or the cause of it.
Now, the more recent study helps clear things up. The results strongly indicate that the reduced transport of serotonin drives the disease – rather than following it.
The Hopkins scientists believe their study shows that preventing the loss of serotonin could potentially stave off Alzheimer’s disease.
“Now that we have more evidence that serotonin is a chemical that appears affected early in cognitive decline, we suspect that increasing serotonin function in the brain could prevent memory loss from getting worse and slow disease progression,” says researcher Gwenn Smith, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.
Along with memory problems, drops in the brain’s serotonin levels are linked to depression, anxiety and other mood disorders.
A Tip to Boost Your Serotonin
The nutrient duo that is now believed to be able to preserve serotonin levels consists of the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil combined with vitamin D.
Researchers at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute in Oakland, California, explain that vitamin D is necessary for the cellular processes that convert the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin. (Tryptophan is a protein building block we get most readily from meats, poultry, fish and dairy products.)2
And while vitamin D takes part in the production of serotonin, the omega-3 fats from fish oil stimulate the release of serotonin from “presynaptic” neurons in the brain – the neuron structures that are responsible for releasing neurotransmitters.
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), one of the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, accelerates the release of serotonin by cutting off inflammatory signals in the brain that would otherwise keep the serotonin bottled up.
At the same time, another omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), alters cell membranes in a way that makes it easier for serotonin to find its intended receptors on brain cells.
Not Much D or Omega 3s in Our Diet
The researchers point out that not only do Americans get little vitamin D in food or from our skin’s production of it when exposed to sunlight, but we also don’t eat much fish. These national habits make us especially vulnerable to running short of both vitamin D and omega-3s.
“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,” says researcher Bruce Ames, Ph.D.
These studies are also closing in on the precise reasons why omega-3 fats help with depression – a condition that has been linked to disruptions in serotonin. A review study performed in Europe shows that omega-3 fats are just as effective for improving mood as anti-depressant medication.3 So maybe you can toss the Prozac and Zantac and achieve the same results with fish oil – worth a try.
The evidence is pretty clear: Your brain depends on these two super-powered nutrients to be at its best. Don’t let another day go by without making sure you get them into your diet and supplement program.