Can bananas help depression?

Oh dear. Are you feeling depressed again? You know, it could be a lack of serotonin
in your brain that’s making you feel depressed. Eat me! Feel any better? Oh dear. Boys!! Hello and Welcome to ScienceSheWrote. The
show where I discuss awesome things to do with science and the human body. Firstly, I want to apologise it’s been so
long since my last video. I’ve had a lot of things going on, I’ve had to move house, I’ve
had to travel for job interviews, I’ve now got a job which means I have to move house
again. So things have been a little bit.. But hopefully things will settle down soon
and I’ll be able to produce videos on a much more regular basis. And since my last video I’ve actually hit
a thousand subscribers, which is just insane! Thank You so much! I promise there will be
more menstrual cup related videos on the way soon. If you want to keep up with ScienceSheWrote
developments then be sure to follow me on my social media…or if you just like pictures
of cats then follow me on my social media! I’ll post updates there when you can expect
new videos and things that I’m working on. Today we’re going to be talking about mental
illness, specifically depression. Comical introduction aside, depression is a serious
illness, and it is a debilitating illness. I myself have suffered from depression and
I know that it really just….*****. Fun topic for a video, but one I that I feel is very
important. Now science doesn’t really know what causes
depression, and if we don’t know the root cause we’re going to have a difficult time
treating it. But one of the most popular theories is the
‘chemical imbalance’ hypothesis. And this basically says that depressed individuals
have inappropriate levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. So it could be that depressed
individuals have too much of a certain neurotransmitter, or not enough. Now whether this is actually
the cause of depression, or just a symptom of it, isn’t really known but its something
that current pharmaceutical treatments for depression try to address. Now, in the world of the ‘chemical imbalance
theory’, you’ve probably heard the word serotonin thrown around quite a lot. This
is because serotonin is associated with the regulation of mood, appetite, and sleep, and
certain cognitive functions such as memory and learning. Because depressed individuals
are thought to have lower than ‘normal’ levels of serotonin they are often prescribed
drugs to try and increase the level of synaptic serotonin in the brain.
So you might be prescribed an SSRI or SNRI. Basically what these drugs do is they prevent
the reuptake of serotonin into cells in the brain so it allows the serotonin to stick
around longer and have its effect. But it’s not only these type of antidepressant that
affect serotonin levels, Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are another type of antidepressant
therapy that acts on serotonin by preventing its breakdown. Now if you’ve ever been depressed, at some
point you’ve probably gone online and searched Because, nobody wants to be depressed! And whilst there is some good advice out there
on the internet unfortunately, given the nature of the internet, there is also some advice
that is absolute twoddle (rubbish!). And here we come to the subject of this video: bananas.
That wonderful, yellow, phallic shaped fruit. And one of the results you’ll find quite a
lot on the internet is that bananas contain serotonin, so eating more bananas will help
restore the serotonin levels of your brain. And unfortunately this is not true. The serotonin
found in bananas is unable to cross the blood-brain barrier, so isn’t going to be able to influence
the serotonin levels in the brain. If anything consumed in the diet is to work
on the brain and affect cognitive function or mood, it must be able to cross this highly
selective barrier that separates the bloodstream from the brain. Add the serotonin found in
bananas just can’t do this.On the other hand, bananas actually contain an amino acid known
as tryptophan which is essential for the production of serotonin in the body. But bananas aren’t
anything special with regards to tryptophan, in fact most protein-based foods contain tryptophan,
and many at much higher levels than bananas. But that opening sequence would have been
a lot different if my partner had been throwing baked beans or boiled eggs at me in bed!
Unlike serotonin consumed in the diet, tryptophan consumed can actually cross the blood brain
barrier. Even so, the tryptophan found in food is unlikely to have any effect on serotonin
synthesis in the brain. In order to cross the blood brian barrier tryptophan must be
able to access a specific transport mechanism. Unfortunately, several other types of amino
acid also utilise this transport mechanism and tryptophan is often outcompeted for access.
However, dietary supplementation with purified tryptophan has been investigated as a possible
means to increase levels of tryptophan in the brain. The idea is that by increasing the
blood levels of tryptophan you’ll increase its chances of gaining access to the transport
system to cross the blood brain barrier. Unfortunately most studies looking at tryptophan supplementation
as a means to treat depression took place in the 70s and 80s, with results inconsistent
at best. In addition, a number of side effects of tryptophan supplementation have been reported
including nausea, drowsiness and vomiting, and the investigation of tryptophan supplementation was largely abandoned with the advent of drugs such as SSRIs. Another possible avenue of investigation is
looking at genetic mutations of an enzyme which is required in the body to convert tryptophan
into serotonin. Mutations in the gene for tryoptophan hydroxylase could result in an
enzyme that has reduced efficiency resulting in lower levels of serotonin being produced
in the body. If you’d like to know more about this then check in the box below where I’ll
link you to my blog post and I’ll also provide links to the original research papers. Now if you are currently suffering from depression,
or you know somebody that is suffering from depression, please don’t take away anything
negative from this video. There are a number of ways which you can help to treat depression,
bananas just isn’t one of those things. If you are struggling with depression or would
like to know more about depression check in the box below for some links to find out more
information. *laughter at being hit on the head by a banana.
It DID hurt!* Take two….TAKE TWO. No it’s my banana!

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