New evidence reveals the possibility of mood-enhancing effects associated with some flavors, stemming at least in part from natural ingredients bearing a striking chemical similarity to valproic acid, a widely used prescription mood-stabilizing drug, scientists reported in Philadelphia. This effect joins those previously reported for chocolate, teas and some other known comfort foods.
They presented the study of more than 1,700 substances that make up the flavors of common foods at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.
"Molecules in chocolate, a variety of berries and foods containing omega-3 fatty acids have shown positive effects on mood. In turn, our studies show that some commonly used flavor components are structurally similar to valproic acid," said Karina Martinez-Mayorga, Ph.D., leader of a research team that has been studying the effects of flavors on mood. She described research done while working at the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies, and now is with the
Chemistry Institute at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
Sold under brand names that include Depakene, Depakote and Stavzor, valproic acid is used to smooth out the mood swings of people with manic-depressive disorder and related conditions.