Food industry research on mood modulators has focused on less-severe mood changes, she noted, and patients taking prescribed antidepressants should continue to do so.
But her team's future research may result in dietary recommendations or new nutritional supplements with positive mood effects, she said.
Sharon Zarabi, a nutritionist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said she wasn't surprised by the study, given an ever-growing supplement market that seeks to identify key nutrients and duplicate them in pill or extract form.
But Zarabi pointed out that it's well established that various food groups have mood-modulating effects. For example, protein from meat, fish, poultry and eggs is known to increase levels of "feel-good hormones" affecting alertness and energy, she said, and unrefined carbohydrates raise levels of a brain neurotransmitter that diminishes pain and increases calmness.
"I personally believe everything you eat affects the way you feel," she said, adding that she encourages her patients to seek key nutrients from whole foods. "We don't need supplements and pills ... we need food for fuel, so if we look to our food to give us energy to perform throughout the day, at the same time we'll be getting the proper nutrients for neurotransmission."
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about valproic acid.
SOURCES: Karina Martinez-Mayorga, Ph.D., research scientist, Chemistry Institute at the National Autonomous University of Me
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