Nutrient intakes and the common mental disorders in women

J Affect Disord. 2012 Dec 1;141(1):79-85. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2012.02.018. Epub 2012 Mar 6.


Background: There is an increasing recognition of the role of nutrition in depression and anxiety. Magnesium, folate and zinc have all been implicated in depressive illness, however there are few data on these nutrients in anxiety disorders and the data from population-studies are limited.

Aims: In a large, randomly-selected, population-based sample of women, this study aimed to examine the relationship between the dietary intakes of these three micronutrients and clinically determined depressive and anxiety disorders and symptoms.

Methods: Nutrient intakes were determined using a validated food frequency questionnaire. The General Health Questionnaire-12 measured psychological symptoms, and a clinical interview (Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV-TR, non-patient edition) assessed current depressive and anxiety disorders.

Results: After adjustments for energy intake, each standard deviation increase in the intake of zinc, magnesium and folate was associated with reduced odds ratio (OR) for major depression/dysthymia (zinc: OR=0.52, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.31 to 0.88; magnesium: OR=0.60, 95% CI 0.37 to 0.96; folate: OR=0.66, 95% CI 0.45 to 0.97). There was also an inverse association between the intake of magnesium and zinc and GHQ-12 scores (zinc: zβ=-0.16, 95% CI -0.29 to -0.04; magnesium: -0.14, 95% CI -0.26 to -0.03). These relationships were not confounded by age, socioeconomic status, education or other health behaviours. There was no relationship observed between any nutrient and anxiety disorders.

Conclusion: These results demonstrate an association between the dietary intakes of magnesium, folate and zinc and depressive illnesses, although reverse causality and/or confounding cannot be ruled out as explanations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety Disorders / blood
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / blood*
  • Diet
  • Diet Records
  • Female
  • Folic Acid / blood*
  • Humans
  • Magnesium / blood*
  • Micronutrients / blood
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Status
  • Young Adult
  • Zinc / blood*


  • Micronutrients
  • Folic Acid
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc