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Could Food Flavors Act Like Mood-Stabilizing Drugs?
Date:8/20/2012

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

SUNDAY, Aug. 19 (HealthDay News) -- The notion that eating certain foods when feeling blue is a form of self-medicating is gaining traction after scientists identified some ingredients very similar chemically to a widely used prescription mood-stabilizing drug.

The research, scheduled for presentation Sunday at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia, builds on a large body of evidence reporting mood-boosting effects from chocolate, teas, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and other comfort foods.

"The tendency to depression in its many forms has increased due to our stressed society, [and] antidepressants are effective for only 50 percent to 60 percent of patients," said study author Karina Martinez-Mayorga, who initiated the study while at the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies, in San Diego. Martinez-Mayorga is now a research scientist at the Chemistry Institute at the National Autonomous University in Mexico.

"All this suggests the need for creative and new strategies," she added. "I'd like to emphasize that our primary interest is in flavors for enhancing mood in normal, healthy people during 'down times' not [associated with] clinical depression."

Study funders included Robertet Flavors, Inc., which manufactures flavor compounds and other products.

Martinez-Mayorga and her team used "chemoinformatics," which utilizes computers to screen the chemical structures of more than 1,700 food flavor ingredients for similarities to approved antidepressants, marketed drugs and substances with established antidepressant effects. She did not identify specific ingredients or flavors, since the study is ongoing, but reported that some bear a striking chemical similarity to the prescription drug valproic acid.

Also used to treat seizures, valproic acid helps stabilize manic symptoms -- such as an abnormally excit
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