The Relationship between Selected Nutrients and Depression among Smokers

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The Ohio State University

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Because cigarette smoking is a significant problem, there is increasing interest in the co-occurring problems smokers face. Depression and smoking status are strongly correlated and diminished serotonergic function is associated with depression. Tryptophan, required in producing both niacin and serotonin, and omega-3 PUFAs are low in people with depression. In general, smokers have less healthful diets than nonsmokers, with research indicating decreased intake of these nutrients. This study examines the relationship between depressive symptoms and the intake of tryptophan and omega-3 PUFAs among smokers. Using a biobehavioral framework, this study focuses on the impact of diet and nutrition on the mental health of smokers. Data are drawn from a primary study of the effects of ethnicity and cigarette preference on nicotine dependence and cigarette smoke constituent exposure. Plasma cotinine concentrations determined level of smoking. Depressive symptoms were assessed via the CES-D scale. The computerized Vio Food Frequency Questionnaire measured subjects’ nutritional intake. Pearson’s correlations among 108 African American and Caucasian male and female cigarette smokers indicate a non-significant inverse relationship between smoking and tryptophan and smoking and omega-3 intake, but there was no significant correlational relationship between smoking, depressive symptoms, and the selected nutrients. Nicotine dependent smokers had higher perceived stress (p=0.058) and lower tryptophan intake (p=0.018). Less education was correlated with higher CES-D scores (p=.046) and Caucasians had higher levels of education (p=.001). Females had higher body mass indexes (p=.034). Older subjects had higher baseline cotinine levels (p=.002.) and smoked more cigarettes per day (p=.042). Caucasian participants had higher baseline cotinine levels (p=.004), but African Americans smoked more cigarettes per day (p=.045). Further investigation is needed regarding the complex biobehavioral factors that influence depression among smokers. Understanding the co-occurring problems smokers face, such as BMI, race, nutrition, depression, and age, is critical to the development of effective patient education and smoking cessation programs.


2nd Place in Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Denman Undergraduate Research Forum


smoking, nutrition, tryptophan, depression, omega-3 PUFA, stress