Minerals are critical in supporting several key functions related to mood disorders, including neuro transmitter synthesis, cellular metabolism, and immunocompetence. Modern-day malnutrition has been attributed to poor dietary patterns, marked by excess intake of refined sugars and the absence of nutrient-dense foods. In a population study that included 13,486 children and adolescents, excess consumption of low nutritional content foods was correlated with increased aggression, violent behaviors, and psychiatric distress. Minerals are essential in the enzymatic activation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that regulates neuronal plasticity and promotes the maturation and differentiation of new neurons within the CNS and the peripheral nervous system. Animal studies have shown that stress can reduce BDNF expression and activity in the hippocampus, and clinical studies have echoed similar findings in which serum BDNF levels are reported to be lower in depressed patients than in controls.
Zinc also activates hippocampal neurogenesis through the upregulation of BDNF, while inhibiting glutamate and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) activity. Low serum plasma zinc levels have been associated with impairments in information processing and impulsivity in humans. It was hypothesized that the antidepressant effect of zinc is dependent on serotonin transmission. Like zinc, magnesium is critical for enzymatic, hormonal, and neurotransmitter processes. The first report of magnesium’s role in depression surfaced almost a century ago. Evidence suggests that magnesium can mitigate depressive symptoms, whereas magnesium insufficiency may aggravate stress responses. The repletion of magnesium levels is often associated with improvement of symptoms typically following antidepressant therapy and/or recovery from depression.