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A new study determines how vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids can trigger the neurotransmitters needed for healthy brain functioning.

A new study determines how vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids can trigger the neurotransmitters needed for healthy brain functioning.

While it's no secret that vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids can help improve cognitive thinking — and oppositely, deficiencies in these nutrients can dampen brain health functions — a newly published study may have ascertained just exactly why this relationship exists at all.

The study, led by Rhonda Patrick and Bruce Ames of the California Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, developed a model that determines how "omega-3 fatty acid and vitamin D supplement improves cognitive function and behavior in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and impulsive behavior," working to "help prevent and modulate the severity of brain dysfunction."

According to the researchers, vitamin D triggers the activation of tryptophans used to synthesize brain serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood and mental well-being. Conversely, deficient levels of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids — also shown to foster healthy neural activity — would result in inadequate brain serotonin synthesis, "contributing to the neuropsychiatric disorders and depression."

Because the body does not produce omega-3 fatty acids on its own, we have to consume them through food rich in omega-3s, such as fish (nicknamed "brain food" for exactly that reason). Sunlight helps trigger the body's internal production of vitamin D, but the lack of sun exposure during the winter results in widespread amounts of deficiencies throughout the country, particularly in regions like the Northeast. If you're not receiving enough vitamin D or omega-3 fatty acids the natural way, supplementation can provide an easy solution to bring your vitamin intake up to recommended levels, reinforcing proper brain health and cognitive functioning. 

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