Good nutrition is vital for building up mental resilience in trying times. These are the mood-boosting minerals to have in your mental first aid kit.
Our minds have a lot to deal with; be it overscheduled lives, the need to succeed running us into the ground both, or the rise of burnout in the workplace. That’s even before we get into the uncertainty of the current Covid-19 health crisis. According to research by the Health Survey for England approximately one in four of us in the UK will experience a mental health problem in any given year and experts are predicting numbers will rise in response to lockdown and the effects of Covid-19 on the workforce and the economy.
In Mental Health Awareness Week this week, Archbishop Justin Welby, who has talked openly about his own mental health issues, summed up the national mood when he told the BBC that there was “an overwhelming sense the world is getting more and more difficult and gloomy”.
The links between diet and mood are well documented and there are many key nutrients that play a role in maintaining energy levels and reducing the risk of depression, but it’s not always easy to eat well. Low mood and poor mental health can take their toll on the food choices you make, and this can leave gaps in the diet. This is where the sensible use of supplements can be really helpful.
Copper is unique because it’s a nutrient that many may be getting too much of when considered in the context of nutrient interactions. While it is true that a copper deficiency is associated with increased rates of some neurological issues, such as ALS or Huntington’s disease for example, copper toxicity has been seen in those with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Wilson’s disease which tells us that too much or too little copper can be problematic.1 In one study it was shown that copper levels were significantly higher in women with a history of postpartum depression when compared to woman without depression at all or those without a history of postpartum depression.2 It was also shown that women with postpartum depression had higher copper to zinc ratios.2 This makes sense because copper and zinc share a receptor for absorption in the gastrointestinal tract. So, when we have too much copper relative to our zinc intake, it can result in not enough zinc being absorbed. The reverse is also true, though it’s typically zinc that our bodies don’t get enough of especially in those eating the standard American diet (SAD).
While it’s important to consider one’s copper to zinc ratio, it’s also important to get enough zinc for mental health as well. In one study of people with anxiety, zinc supplementation was shown to improve zinc levels while also improving overall symptoms.3 This isn’t surprising since zinc is essential for the proper functioning and development of a variety of body systems including the brain, and immune functioning.3 In addition, low intracellular zinc has been associated with DNA damage, and oxidative stress.3 A meta-analysis of zinc and depression found that depression is linked to a lower concentration of zinc in the blood.4 Other studies have also linked zinc to mental health such as a study of Schizophrenia patients which showed greater improvements for those receiving zinc compared to controls.5
Iron, like copper is a tricky nutrient to discuss, one reason being that there are major differences between men and women, mostly due to a woman’s menstrual cycle. While iron is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world, some people get to much of it, particularly those with the hereditary condition call hemochromatosis.7,8 Interestingly, hemochromatosis is also the most common hereditary disorder among Caucasians.8 This will explain why one study that measured body iron (most measure iron in the blood) found that higher levels of body iron was associated with significant decreases in mood and high depressive symptoms among men.6
On the other hand, when it comes to women, too little iron is the greater concern. A 2013 systematic review of iron deficiency, cognition, mental health, and fatigue in women of childbearing age found that iron treatment resulted in higher arithmetic scores.8 This same systematic review found that 7 of 10 studies they reviewed showed improved cognition with iron supplementation.8 It’s important to keep in mind that these studies were mostly on people who were deficient in iron. As we can see above, with the condition of hemochromatosis, iron can be consumed in excess. The reason is that when consumed in excess, iron’s role changes into a free radical that promotes neurotoxicity.9 This can happen quickly depending on one’s body stores of iron and so even practitioners need to use caution when supplementing anyone with iron.
Despite being raised during an era where milk commercials flooded television with the idea that “it does a body good,” the reality is that calcium supplements can present some risks. One example is a study that showed hypercalcemia (excess calcium in the blood) being associated with poor mental health in hemodialysis patients.10 One could quickly say, “yes, but that’s just for people on hemodialysis” and this would be a fantastic statement to make. My answer to that is that it’s not the only study to show a negative impact to mental health from calcium supplements.
A study of 700 women between the age of 70 and 92 found that 14% of those who took calcium supplements developed dementia compared to 8% of the women who did not supplement.11 In this same study, those women with a history of stroke and who took calcium supplements were seven times more likely to develop dementia while those who had evidence of cerebrovascular disease and who took supplements were three times as likely to develop dementia compared to those without a history of these conditions and who did not take calcium. Interestingly, even the supposed bone building effects of calcium have been questioned with some researchers even questioning the 1000-1200mg/day RDA as not being firmly based and that “calcium supplements have very little role to play in the prevention or treatment of osteoporosis.” 12
It’s extremely important to note that while calcium from supplements shows potential adverse effects, no study that I have found shows that high intake of calcium from whole foods does this. Bottom line, if you don’t have guidance from a health practitioner to take calcium supplements to treat a known condition, I would hold off and consider adding more calcium rich foods to your diet instead.
Magnesium is another mineral that is commonly deficient in the American diet though not as much as iron, with some estimations that 42% of young adults having a magnesium deficiency.13 When looking at magnesium’s impact on mental health, a 2017 systematic review of 18 studies found that magnesium may have a beneficial effect on anxiety.13 In addition to improvements in those with anxiety, research also shows that magnesium supplementation is helpful for those with depression.14 Studies of those suffering from migraine headaches also show a benefit from magnesium supplementation with reduction in frequency, duration, and intensity of migraines at 41% compared to 15.8% in the placebo group.13 If your mental health is primarily from difficulty sleeping, then magnesium may be a potential intervention as studies have shown it can improve sleep time, efficiency, and onset with improvement in melatonin and cortisol concentration in elderly individuals with insomnia.
Minerals play a huge role in maintaining stable mental health.
Betterbio Health Fulvic Minerals offers a great way to supplement your diet, providing the confidence you be receiving some of those essential nutritional requirements. We’re all short on Minerals but Why? Years of growing crops in the same soil have depleted minerals available to plants and as a consequence, researchers believe we are not receiving the same nutritional value from foods as our forefathers did.
1. Styczeń, K., et al. (2016). Study of the Serum Copper Levels in Patients with Major Depressive Disorder. Biological trace element research, 174(2), 287-293.
2. Crayton, J. W., & Walsh, W. J. (2007). Elevated serum copper levels in women with a history of post-partum depression. Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology, 21(1), 17–21. doi:10.1016/j.jtemb.2006.10.001
3. Russo A. J. (2011). Decreased zinc and increased copper in individuals with anxiety. Nutrition and metabolic insights, 4, 1-5. doi:10.4137/NMI.S6349
4. Swardfager, W., et al. (2013). Zinc in Depression: A Meta-Analysis. Biological Psychiatry, 74(12), 872–878. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.05.008
5. Mortazavi, M., et al. (2015). Efficacy of Zinc Sulfate as an Add-on Therapy to Risperidone Versus Risperidone Alone in Patients With Schizophrenia: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial. Iranian journal of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, 9(3), e853.
6. Richardson, A. C., et al. (2015). Higher Body Iron Is Associated with Greater Depression Symptoms among Young Adult Men but not Women: Observational Data from the Daily Life Study. Nutrients, 7(8), 6055-72. doi:10.3390/nu7085270
7. McLean, E., Cogswell, M., Egli, I., Wojdyla, D., & de Benoist, B. (2008). Worldwide prevalence of anaemia, WHO Vitamin and Mineral Nutrition Information System, 1993–2005. Public Health Nutrition, 12(04), 444. doi:10.1017/s1368980008002401
8. Greig, A. J., Patterson, A. J., Collins, C. E., & Chalmers, K. A. (2013). Iron deficiency, cognition, mental health and fatigue in women of childbearing age: a systematic review. Journal of nutritional science, 2, e14. doi:10.1017/jns.2013.7
9. Núñez, M. T., et al. (2012). Iron toxicity in neurodegeneration. BioMetals, 25(4), 761–776. doi:10.1007/s10534-012-9523-0
10. Tanaka, M., et al. (2007). Hypercalcemia is associated with poor mental health in hemodialysis patients: results from Japan DOPPS. Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation, 22(6), 1658–1664. doi:10.1093/ndt/gfm008
11. Kern, J., et al. (2016). Calcium supplementation and risk of dementia in women with cerebrovascular disease. Neurology, 87(16), 1674–1680. doi:10.1212/wnl.0000000000003111
12. Reid, I. R., Bristow, S. M., & Bolland, M. J. (2015). Calcium supplements: benefits and risks. Journal of Internal Medicine, 278(4), 354–368. doi:10.1111/joim.12394
13. Boyle, N. B., Lawton, C., & Dye, L. (2017). The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress-A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 9(5), 429. doi:10.3390/nu9050429
14. Jacka, F. N., et al. (2009). Association Between Magnesium Intake and Depression and Anxiety in Community-Dwelling Adults: The Hordaland Health Study. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 43(1), 45–52. doi:10.1080/00048670802534408
15. Abbasi, B., et al. (2012). The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of research in medical sciences: the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 17(12), 1161-9.