For mood stabilization many physicians will prescribe valproic acid but new research has discovered several natural ingredients with mood-enhancing flavors that possess chemical similarities to valproic acid. This research could lead to new drugs with fewer side effects.

In the study, lead author Karina Martinez-Mayorga, PhD, and her team have discovered several molecules in chocolate, various berries and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids that act as mood enhancers.

Martinez-Mayorga, who conducted her research at Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies and is currently with the Chemistry Institute at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said "The large body of evidence that chemicals in chocolate, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, teas and certain food could well be mood-enhancers encourages the search for other mood modulators in food."

Physicians prescribe valproic acid to patients who suffer from mood swings due to manic-depressive disorder and other related conditions.

While the food industry focuses on more natural ways to improve mood, scientists have known for years that there are mood-altering chemicals found in food. Martinez-Mayorga believes seeking to develop these naturally found chemical compounds into drugs could help maintain cognitive health, improve mental alertness and delay the onset of memory loss.

With the use of computer and informational techniques Martinez-Mayorga screened the chemical structures of more than 1,700 food flavor ingredients for similarities in approved antidepressants, marketed drugs and previously reported anti-depressant agents. In the current research the main results will be compared to valproic acid and Martinez-Mayorga hopes to move forward from analyzing data to testing the flavor/mood theory experimentally.

Martinez-Mayorga, hopes the results would spark new recommendations or nutritional supplements with beneficial mood effects with less side effects than prescription medication.

"It is important to remember that just eating foods that may improve mood is not a substitute for prescribed antidepressive drugs," Martinez-Mayorga warned. However, she does want people to know that specific foods and living a healthy lifestyle can overall boost an individual's mood.

This study was presented at the 244TH National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.