It is Mental Health Awareness Week and this year's theme is "STRESS- Are we coping?". Stress is the root cause of all mental health disorders. It is like a bud which blossoms into various disorders like depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, etc when not identified. Stress also triggers pre-existing mental disorder conditions in patients. Thus it has become very important for everyone to avoid stressful situations and environment. A way of actually acting upon it is the use of nutrients which help us cope with stress, like Vitamin E and Omega-3 fatty acids. This article focuses on the findings based on Vitamin E and it's effect on mental health.
A group of 8 compounds- alpha, beta, gamma and delta Tocopherols and Tocotrienols are collectively known as Vitamin E.
Primarily, Vitamin E is an antioxidant i.e. it prevents oxidation by scavenging peroxy free radicals. These free radicals otherwise end up harming the essential compounds present in the cell wall- Phospholipids, thereby damaging the cell structure and cause, what we all commonly know as AGING.
Research has also shown that vitamin E possesses anti-inflammatory effects that can combat arthritis, asthma, and other inflammatory disorders linked to chronic inflammation including depression. Thus, deficiency of Vitamin E can be detrimental.
Vitamin E deficiency induces anxiety
A study by the Department of Agricultural Chemistry at the Meiji University, Kawasaki, Kanagawa Japan found that a deficiency in vitamin E increased anxiety in both juvenile and adult rats. In a 2009 study at the same university, researchers discovered that they could induce anxiety behaviors in rats by making them deficient in vitamin E.
Vitamin E deficiency linked to depression
When compared to healthy Australians, researchers at the University of Wollongong found 49 patients suffering from major depression to have significantly lower levels of vitamin E. A similar study at the Clinical Research Center for Mental Health in Antwerp, Belgium compared blood samples of 49 depressed patients to 26 healthy volunteers and found significantly lower vitamin E in the depressed patients. Researchers looking at a low-income elderly population in central Israel found that a deficiency in vitamin E was associated with depression. They found that an increase in as little as 1 mg per day of vitamin E decreased the risk of depression.
Prenatal vitamin E has long lasting effects on stress
In another study in Italy, researchers tested groups of adult rats whose mothers had been given elevated doses of vitamin E during pregnancy against those whose mothers had not been given additional vitamin E. The rats whose mothers had been given vitamin E performed much better in stressful situations, demonstrating less anxiety and fear than the other group. Prenatal exposure to vitamin E while in the womb had lasting effects in decreasing anxious responses to stress into adulthood. In other words, the offspring of mothers who took vitamin E during pregnancy were not only born with higher tolerance to stress but that tolerance lasted until after they were fully grown.
Vitamin E may be more effective than Prozac
It appears there is substantial evidence that both anxiety and depression can be caused by a deficiency in vitamin E and that adequate levels of vitamin E in the diet can prevent depression. Taking this a step further, the potential effects of vitamin E as a treatment for stress-induced depression was tested in a group of mice and compared to a group treated with fluoxetine (Prozac). They found the vitamin E to be more effective than Prozac.
This safely concludes that maintaining a healthy amount of Vitamin E in the diet through a balanced diet or through external supplementation is important to ensure mental well being. It is especially important in the age of convenience foods which contain high amounts of salts, sugars and fats which have proven to cause stress on the body.