Though zinc is one of the essential trace minerals for the human body, over two billion people worldwide have zinc deficiency. Those deficient in zinc usually suffer from many disorders, depression being one of them. Yes, anxiety and depression could occur to anyone for many internal and external reasons, but the probability of zinc deficiency as the major cause could not be left out in many of the cases.
Here we will talk about whether depression is really linked to zinc deficiencies and how zinc can help you reduce and prevent your depressive symptoms. But before that, let’s have a general idea about what is zinc good for and what does zinc do for the body.
A Brief Discussion about Zinc and Depression
- Zinc Basics
As a mineral, zinc is an essential trace element which means that we need a small amount of zinc and our body cannot digest or store the excess amount. Zink can be found in abundance in fish, meat, dairy, eggs, and shellfish. Some food plant species also contain zinc, such as wheat and seeds like celery, mustard, poppy, and sesame. The benefits of zinc are too many to count, including but not limited to improving memory and immune system; curing acne, prostate cancer, and diarrhea; preventing osteoporosis and inflammatory skin; stimulating proper physical growth in children; repairing muscle damage; and many more.
- Zinc Deficiency
Zinc deficiency generally occurs due to the absence of zinc-rich foods in one’s diet, but many chronic illnesses could also be the culprit, such as liver disease, renal disease, sickle cell disease, diabetes, just to name a few. Pregnant women; teenagers; people suffering from anorexia nervosa, malnutrition, alcoholism, inflammatory bowel disease; and elderly adults. The most common signs of zinc deficiency are impaired immune system, decreased appetite, and growth retardation. However, those who are deficient in zinc could also experience weight and hair loss, impotence, diarrhea, taste abnormalities, mental lethargy, and delayed wound healing.
- Depression Basics
Depression is a very serious yet common medical disorder that negatively affects the way one feels, thinks, and acts. Depressed people usually lose interest in different activities they used to enjoy before because of extreme sadness. They go through many physical and emotional problems, reducing their ability to live a normal life and work smoothly at home or at office.
Depression comes in many forms, such as persistent depressive disorder, postpartum depression, psychotic depression, seasonal affective disorder, and bipolar disorder. The common symptoms of depression are being anxious and sad, feeling guilty and helpless, having reduced energy and motivation, being suicidal, and many more.
Zinc Deficiency and Depression
So, is there any connection between zinc deficiency and depression? To answer this question, the Supplemania team had to scour through numerous research findings and journals published by reliable sources. Though the scientific community assumed that zinc deficiency and depression are strongly correlated, there was not sufficient evidence to back up this claim.
However, that was until now. A recent journal published by Biological Psychiatry shed some new light on this matter. The research concluded that depression is related to a much-reduced concentration of zinc in the peripheral blood cells of the sufferers than those who are not depressed. The lower one’s zinc level is, the more depressed they usually are.
Another study published by NCBI found that zinc plays a vital role in regulating the body and the brain’s response to anxiety and stress. In another clinical study conducted by Dr. Michael Maes and his team far back in 1994, it was noticed that patient who were obese and depressed at the same time found positive results after trying zinc monotherapy. This finding was later supported by Nowak and his team in 2005, which was published in an article by NCBI.
How Zinc Supplements Could be of Great Help
Zinc supplements are known to have antidepressant properties in humans and our levels of serum zinc can be increased with antidepressant usage. This means zinc deficiency can be regarded as a biomarker for anxiety and depression, and zinc is not the only reason behind this.
As an example, we can consider the role zinc plays in the hippocampus region of our brain – the part that controls our mood and memory. Antidepressants help increase the production of Brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the hippocampus region that allows for nerve recovery and adoption.
However, low zinc levels in one’s body also result in reduced zinc levels in nerve synapse that causes the upsurge of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. These NMDA receptors could react to glutamine, which is an excitatory neurotransmitter responsible for the toxic effects in our brain if there is an excess amount of them.
On the other hand, this also causes the reduction of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter, as well as BDNF and NGF (Nerve Growth Factor) in the brain. The synapse usually has a higher glutamine level, priming the calcium-mediated stimulation of the nerves. As a result, there is a possibility of the occurrence of excitotoxicity.
It has long been suspected that the same process is responsible for depression, anxiety, dementia, migraines, bipolar disorders, and seizures. In short, zinc deficiency could be behind every bad brain syndrome out there, whether directly or indirectly, and zinc supplementation is needed for the optimum performance of our brain as well as our body. But can you take zinc with antidepressants? The answer is yes because the studies stated above showed that this is safe and provides better results.
To sum it up, you can now clearly see that zinc and anxiety or depression are directly correlated. To avoid any possibility of depression, your diet should contain at least 11 mg of zinc if you are a male and 8 mg if you are a female to fulfill your daily zinc requirement. We also recommend that you try the best zinc supplement out there if your notice that your diet plan somehow lacks these minimum requirements.