Is zinc a mood enhancer?

Zinc has shown to play a vital role in depression and mood overall. Zinc plays a role in catalysing, and/or is an active constituent of, over 150 enzymes in humans. (Mann. 2000) Zinc is involved in such functions as antioxidant defense, gene expression, nerve impulse transmission, thyroid function, digestion and a large array of other functions. Zinc is found in high concentrations in hippocampal and cortical neurons. (Nowak G. 1998) Zinc is also an inducer of brain derived neurotrophic factor (Nowak G. 2005), is an antagonist of the NMDA-receptor (Nowak G. 2005 & 2001) and is required for GABA metabolism. (Nowak G. 1998) Zinc deficiency causes biological membranes to be more prone to oxidative damage and impaired function. (O’Dell BL. 2000) In one study of six young men, experimentally induced zinc deficiency was shown to reduce basal metabolic rate ~9% and also significantly reduced protein utilization. (Wada L. 1986)

Three consecutive studies by Maes and colleagues found serum zinc levels were significantly lower in depressed patients as compared to healthy matched controls. (Maes M. 1994, 1997 & 1999) Lower serum zinc was associated with higher past treatment resistance. (Maes M. 1997) In a group of 30 patients with mood disorders, 7/30 had a clear zinc deficiency. (Little KY. 1989) 14 patients with primary affective disorder were found on admission to hospital to have lower plasma zinc levels than 14 controls. (McLoughlin IJ. 1990) Another study reported slightly lower plasma zinc levels in depressed patients, although this did not reach statistical significance. (Narang RL. 1991) Psychiatric manifestations of zinc deficiency include behavioural disturbances, depression and mental confusion. (Mann. 2000) Within major depression populations, lower zinc levels correlate with higher depression severity. (Maes M. 1994)


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