Although essential marine omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D have been shown to improve cognitive function and behavior in the context of certain brain disorders, the underlying mechanism has been unclear. However, in a new paper published in FASEB Journal, serotonin is explained as the possible missing link tying together why vitamin D and marine omega-3 fatty acids might ameliorate the symptoms associated with a broad array of brain disorders.
In a previous paper published last year, authors Dr Rhonda P Patrick and Dr Bruce N Ames discussed the implications of their finding that vitamin D regulates the conversion of the essential amino acid tryptophan into serotonin, and how this may influence the development of autism, particularly in developing children with poor vitamin D status.
In this new paper, they discuss the relevance of these micronutrients for neuropsychiatric illness. Serotonin affects a wide-range of cognitive functions and behaviors including mood, decision-making, social behavior, impulsive behavior, and even plays a role in social decision-making by keeping in check aggressive social responses or impulsive behavior.
Their paper illuminates the mechanistic links that explain why low vitamin D, which is mostly produced by the skin when exposed to sun, and marine omega-3 deficiencies interacts with genetic pathways, such as the serotonin pathway, that are important for brain development, social cognition, and decision-making, and how these gene-micronutrient interactions may influence neuropsychiatric outcomes.