In the zinc study, published in the journal Pharmacological Reports, researchers followed about 60 pregnant women, each of whom took a daily standard-dose multi-vitamin, plus magnesium and zinc through childbirth. One month prior to giving birth, doctors measured blood-fluid (serum) levels of nutrients and administered a depression questionnaire and found that women with mild symptoms of depression also had low serum levels of zinc.
Scientists repeated the nutrition and depression tests at three days and 30 days after birth and found that depression symptoms decreased 31% and serum zinc levels increased 19% between the 3rd and 30th days. Doctors noted that zinc levels were equally low one month before birth and three days after birth, while magnesium levels did not change significantly at any time during the study.
Scientists are developing a new field of study, psychoneuroimmunology or PNI, which examines how the brain interacts with the hormone, immune and nervous systems to maintain health. In a new review of PNI research, doctors found a connection between depression and inflammation. “The old paradigm described inflammation as simply one of many risk factors for depression,” stated lead researcher Kathleen A. Kendall-Tackett. “These recent studies… [indicate] inflammation is not simply a risk factor; it is the risk factor that underlies all the others,” the doctor said.
Women in the last three months (trimester) of pregnancy are particularly vulnerable to inflammation, when white blood cells—part of the immune system—produce greater amounts of an inflammatory protein called a cytokine. This is also a high-risk time for depression, according to Dr. Kendall-Tackett, who advises new mothers to exercise, which lowers stress; to breastfeed, which reduces cytokines; and to take omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation.