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New insight into vitamin D & omega-3’s link to mental disorders

Serotonin may be the link that enables vitamin D and omega-3s to help with disorders like autism.

Research has suggested that vitamin D and omega-3s helps improve cognitive function and behavior in people with a range of brain disorders such as autism. Exactly how the micronutrients help hasn’t been clear. Two California scientists believe they’ve found the missing link.

Serotonin, the “happy” neurotransmitter, may be the key, according to Rhonda Patrick, PhD, and Bruce Ames, PhD, of Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI). Their work appeared in February’s  Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB).

"In this paper we explain how serotonin is a critical modulator of executive function, impulse control, sensory gating and pro-social behavior," says Patrick, in a CHORI release. "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."

In their work, they discuss how, at key periods in a child’s development, insufficient levels of the micronutrients may combine with certain genetic factors to lead to dysfunction serotonin activation. That dysfunction could be an underlying mechanism leading to neuropsychiatric disorders and depression. They write in their abstract that “optimizing vitamin D and marine omega-3 fatty acid intake may help prevent and modulate the severity of brain dysfunction.” Most American don’t get enough omega-3s or vitamin D.

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