Zinc supplementation found to improve mood in women

What we eat and drink can have a profound influence on our health. Not just of the body, but of the brain too. For example, certain foodstuffs (e.g. the artificial sweetener aspartame) can have toxic effects on the brain. Other foodstuffs appear to ‘feed the brain’ and help optimise its function. For example, so-called omega-3 fats found in ‘oily’ fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel and herring appear to help maintain brain function and guard against depression.

Another nutrient that appears to have some capacity to improve mood is the mineral zinc. There is some evidence which links zinc depression with an enhanced risk of depression. Plus, I noticed recently that a recent study has found treatment with zinc improved some measures of mood.

In this study, a group of women were treated with either:

1. a daily multivitamin and mineral

2. a multivitamin and mineral plus 7 mg of zinc daily

for a total of 10 weeks. This design was, in my opinion, not ideal. To gauge the effects of zinc it would have been perhaps better to compare the effects of zinc supplementation against a true placebo. However, because both groups were taking a multivitamin and mineral, one could argue that these ‘cancel each-other out’, and that any difference in effects between the groups is likely to be down to the zinc.

At the end of the study, the women taking the zinc were found to lower scores in terms of depression/dejection as well as anger/hostility. The authors conclude that zinc supplementation may be effective in reducing depression and anger.

I went looking for information for information regarding the proposed mechanism(s) of action of zinc and found a relevant review paper [2] (you can download a free pdf of this paper here). This papers explores a variety of ways in which zinc may have natural mood-stabilising or antidepressant action, including its influence on specific receptors in the brain.

Good sources of zinc include meat and seafood (particularly oysters). It’s perhaps worth bearing in mind that these protein rich food also help supply the amino acids (basic building blocks of protein) necessary for the formation of brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine (which are generally mood-enhancing).


1. Sawada T, et al. Effect of zinc supplementation on mood states in young women: a pilot study. Eur J Clin Nutr 2010;64(3):331-3

2. Nowak G, et al. Zinc and depression. An update. Pharmacological Reports 2005;57:713-8

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10 Responses to Zinc supplementation found to improve mood in women

  1. Bill 15 April 2010 at 12:01 am #

    I have found that mussels, especially the trays in the seafood section at supermarkets are excellent value compared to oysters. I understand they are rich in zinc and other minerals.
    Mussels are a seriously underrated sustainable food source. Mussel farms could be expanded to supply the population with a source of nutrient rich protein, in an environment eco friendly way.
    I try to eat at least 100 grams every other day (with oily fish or prawns).

  2. Dennis 15 April 2010 at 2:03 pm #

    Zinc has many other benefits. See ‘The Zinc Solution’ by by Derek Bryce-Smith and Liz Hodgkinson. Also pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc. Natural mussels, lamb etc would be a good source of zinc but I do not think it likely that farmed mussels would be any good as there is not necessarily any significant amount of zinc in the environment in which the mussels are farmed or in the food that they are fed. Another reason to eat natural foods rather then farmed / processed foods.

  3. Chris 15 April 2010 at 2:33 pm #

    Many years ago as a young adult I often had white spots visible on my fingernails. I was informed at the time that such spots were an indicator of zinc deficiency. I took the information onboard at face value back then. I would reaffirm this snippet if I could be certain that it had satisfactory substance to it and was not just an old wives tale.
    Results returned from an internet search make reference to this assertion and I also found reference affirming that white spots and inferred zinc deficiency is common in teenagers and young adults. Could it be that puberty and sexual maturation place added demands for zinc, might they important hormonally, and might they be important in hormones involved in sexual attraction and libido?
    One old wives tale is of course that oysters are an aphrodisiac. I am in no way convinced a romantic meal including oysters can do for turgidity with the immediacy that is claimed for viagra, but I note the synergy with the old wives tale and the association with zinc deficiency and mood.
    Some of our ancestors who inhabited coastal habitats have left archeological evidence of having consumed large quantities of selfish. Zinc would have been available for paleolithic ancestors from free ranging wild meat but did the advance of human migration to coastal habitats, perhaps with new dietary sources rich in zinc, constitute a dynamic contributing to proliferation of the species?

    I think one under explored concern is the depletion of trace mineral availability in agricultural soils. Conventional farming depletes organic matter because organic matter is not generally added back to the soil in the quantities needed to maintain full and satisfactory soil ecology and fertility. Nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus are often added in generous quantities but revival of trace minerals is neglected. Adding back organic matter is one way of recycling a range of nutrients and nature does this in a natural ecology through the process of life, litter, death and decay. That conventional generally fails to mimic nature is an opportunity missed. And it gets worse. While we generally regard soil merely as a growing medium it is in fact an ecology. Depletion of organic matter in agricultural soils denudes the field capacity of the soil. Field capacity, in simplest terms, compares a property of soil to retain water in the manner of a sponge. The origin of trace minerals in soils is from water courses and precipitation. If field capacity is denuded then less water is retained; trace minerals availability is denuded.
    Zinc, chromium, magnesium, selenium, and other minerals are likely less available now in a modern agricultural soil than an early one. Consequentially, if there is increased incidence of conditions associated with deficiencies, say diabetes and chromium or zinc and depression, do not be surprised.
    We are a species that has innovated itself out of satisfactory ecology. Only when we realise can things get better.

  4. Dr John Briffa 16 April 2010 at 9:33 am #


    Could it be that puberty and sexual maturation place added demands for zinc

    Another factor for males is that semen is rich in zinc (I remember reading that each ejaculate contains about 3 mg of zinc). Anyone who knows anything about pubescent/adolescent boys will know that this is a potential cause of serious zinc depletion.

  5. Dennis 16 April 2010 at 11:22 am #

    It is well known that much farmed produce is deficient in trace minerals including zinc, chomium, selenium etc. In farming, much use is made of NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) fertiliser but little or no other minerals are added. The fertiliser is sufficient for the crops to grow healthily but the resulting crops are deficient in the minerals that humans need. The main type of food which is abundant in minerals is wild seafood including fish and seaweed; also wild game is quite good. Otherwise the nutritional value depends on the age of the soil and how many minerals have been leeched out by water. Organic produce is better than non organic but still may be deficient in trace minerals. For best health eat natural seafood, wild game and a big variety of organic fruit, vegetables, nuts, seed and grains and (other) animal foods from different sources and countries. Also take supplements. This gives the best chance of getting all the minerals the human body needs for good health.

  6. Chris 16 April 2010 at 4:16 pm #

    Anyone who knows anything about pubescent/adolescent boys will know that this is a potential cause of serious zinc depletion.

    Taking a longer term view I think you have illuminated a possible explanation for the appearance and disappearance of white spots on my fingernails…

    It was for the benefit of persons who may not be aware I was trying to get across a notion of a contrast between an intensively farmed soil and a natural soil ecology. The first is pretty well reduced to being an inert medium, while the second constitutes an ecology almost in its’ own right.
    In the second the teaming diversity of life involved in recycling produces detritus that improves field capacity. Put simply, worm pooh is a gelatinous product which via its’ properties aids water and mineral retention and bio-availability to plants. Biochar enhanced soils, or terra pretas, (see web and youtube) are a simple example of the most promising application of a ‘natural’ nano-technology that exemplify (and amplify) the notion or principle of field capacity. Organic farming practice redresses failings but only by degree.

    In the industrial age business evolutionary imperatives reward short termism that depletes capitals such as energy reserves and fertility, and neglects natural cycles of renewal. I was hinting at a sense that business and economic practice, which evolves over time and is introduced largely by the actions of a minority, can impose undesirable and unforeseen consequence upon a wider population. The travesty is that authorities are slow to perceive risks and are slow to impose regulation. For examples think Tetra Ethyl Lead (TEL – the now banned anti-knock agent in gasoline) and CFC refrigerants. Neither of these are examples are from within the food chain, but consider aspartame, vegetable oils, and bisphenol-A (BPA) as examples of novel introductions. Concern is gathering about detrimental consequence from each of these and in the case of vegetable oils and BPA includes petitions to regulatory authorities from groups of eminent and well-informed scientists in the field.

    A wider public is often exposed to risk they are unaware of or cannot comprehend to suit business agendas and for want of better and more dynamic regulation. Health concerns of our time could be strikingly linked to aspects of our economy without widespread recognition and whilst many are dismissive about the dietary factors probably driving chronic disease, certainly it suits business agendas to treat symptom over establishment and eradication of cause.
    It is a dispassionate and detached view that is difficult to put across and nigh on impossible to do so briefly.

  7. bobby dean 16 April 2010 at 10:40 pm #

    : thats what i like about you, you are human:)

  8. Dennis 17 April 2010 at 1:08 am #

    I totally agree. The pressure from big food processing business is relentless. Almost all people in the western world are blissfully unaware that the western diet, particular the Anglo-Saxon one is basically a junk food diet causes western degenerative disease which big pharma can therefore profit from. And the next phase is Monsanto’s ’roundup ready’ for dead dead soils and GM ! Working out what humanity is doing to the earth and to itself is very difficult and not visible at all to the layman. Loss of biodiversity is a much bigger threat than CO2. I recommend you look at the naturalnews.com website if you have not already done so.

  9. Elmer Kotas 1 May 2010 at 10:31 pm #

    it is still better to adhere on organic farming because the fruits and vegetables does not contain those harmful chemicals..:*

  10. Chris 7 October 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    Thanks Dennis, I’ll take a look at the site you recommend.
    Astronomer Royal Martin Rees delivered the Royal Society Reith Lectures in 2010 and they are still available as a BBC podcast, (here). they make for intersting listening and give me sparks for thought. Rees mentions loss of diversity.
    Another aspect came out in debate that MPs are challenged by science. Ever evolving complexity is a challenge for parliament, lay people, and even experts a like. If you’re delving deep in the tree of knowledge it is difficult to keep abreast of the other branches. There is mileage to be gained from ‘informed generalism’ (which is kind of an oxymoron if you get my meaning).
    As if the tree wasn’t complex enough there is the influence of the corporate agenda which perniciously taints how the science is published, reported, and applied on route to the consumer. Nothing can be taken at face value.
    Humans have collectively evolved complex challenges and a complex knowledge economy to which individuals are maladapted. It is hard, especially in the face of economic determinism, to galvanise the political will to address matters.

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