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Diabetes can lead to depression. Can omega-3 and vitamin D supplements help?

Published on:25 November 2021, 12:00pm IST
Diabetes is a lifestyle disease. While it can manifest in the form of physical symptoms, it also brings with it certain mental health concerns.
Ambika Chawla
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Diabetes
Diabetes also causes mental health concerns. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Healthy eating offers a host of benefits to an individual. We all know the importance of a balanced diet for good health and well-being, and how it helps prevent development of a medical illness. A balanced diet provides an adequate amount of nutrients for the healthy functioning of the body. Every nutrient has its own properties, and plays a critical role in shaping up an individual’s physical and mental health – especially when it comes to a person with diabetes.

The role of a good diet is important for a healthy mind. Yes, it’s true — a healthy body is meant to have a healthy mind. A mind that has access to all the required healthy nutrients in the body will be able to function at its optimum level. All the organs are expected to function in a well-balanced way.

But how does it happen?

A concept known as mind-body connection exists in each of us; how we think and feel at a psychological level impacts our physical health. Not just in terms of nutritional value, but if an individual is affected by a medical illness of terminal nature or a life altering event, they are impacted by it at a psychological level too. For example, people suffering from osteoporosis, endometriosis are difficult to manage because of the severity of symptoms, and in turn, causes stress.

Diet and mental health

Providing an adequate amount of all the necessary nutrients to the brain helps in releasing healthy neurotransmitters, which are essential for any cognitive activity that occurs. The neurotransmitters are responsible for all the activities that a brain performs. Mood, thinking, decision-making, and planning are all important functions of the brain.

A study conducted by Stranges et al. (2014), in England, found that vegetable consumption was associated with high levels of mental well-being. Vitamins and minerals are important supplements to perform vital functions of the brain.

Mental health concerns in relation to diabetes

Diabetes is considered a lifestyle disease, and its diagnosis can give rise to many emotions. After all, it suddenly demands many changes in the long-developed lifestyle pattern of an individual. The illness can only be managed after diagnosis, and there is no complete cure. To manage it effectively, a person may have to bring drastic changes in their routine and habits, like choosing the kind of food to eat, avoiding food items and beverages containing sugar, restricting alcohol intake, and even including exercise as part of their regular routine.

The affected individual is also assigned multiple other added responsibilities, like checking blood sugar regularly, doctor’s appointment, and cost of expensive appliances; they all have underlying levels of stress. Following and practicing these changes may lead to irritability, changes in mood, or aggression.

diabetes and mental health
Diabetes can have a detrimental impact on your mental health Image courtesy: Shutterstock

People living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at increased risk for depression, anxiety and eating disorders, and rates of depression across the lifespan are two times greater for people with diabetes than in the general population. as per Mental Health America.

These feelings are also referred to as diabetes distress that can cause anyone to get back to unhealthy habits of life, not checking sugar levels, or non-compliance with doctor’s advice.

How can mental health concerns be managed in people with diabetes?

It is evident that there is a connection of the mind and body, and nutrients impact mental health. We have also seen the presence of psychological concerns in patients having diabetes. We can thus establish that nutrition can help in improving the psychological signs developed in diabetes.

Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been seen in the cell membranes of patients with depression and schizophrenia. An increased amount of these nutrients is expected to reduce these problems. Some studies have also reflected reduced levels of anxiety with the presence of omega-3 PUFA. Its positive effects are also evident in mood disorders. The intake of omega-3 is vital for normal brain functioning.

vitamin D and diabetes
Vitamin D and omega-3 should be included in your diet. Image courtesy:
Shutterstock

Moreover, a deficiency of Vitamin D has been seen to present symptoms similar to depression. These include mood changes, anxiety, fatigue, forgetfulness, etc. In a meta-analysis, it was found that studies confirmed the positive impact of vitamin D on the quality of life, depression, anxiety, stress, and general mental health of diabetic patients. Studies are evidently showing that supplementation of vitamin D helps improve mood and health.

By gathering knowledge about the function of omega-3 and vitamin D involved in the functioning of our body and brain, we can certainly say that it can have a positive impact on mental health. Thus, it can be concluded that these components should be included in a diet to uplift the reduced mental health of individuals, especially those suffering from diabetes.

Ambika Chawla Ambika Chawla

Ambika Chawla, Clinical psychologist, Kaleidoscope. A unit of Dr Bakshi's Healthcare