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Bananas may beat the winter blues


29 September 2003
The effect of winter on mood and the potential benefits of bananas as a mild anti-depressant are just two of the areas being considered for further study by Southern Cross University (SCU) Psychology lecturer, Dr Allen Lansdowne.

Dr Lansdowne, who took up a position at the university earlier this year, is hoping to expand on a research study he completed for his PhD.

That study focussed on ‘seasonality’ and its impacts on people’s moods. He said while ‘Seasonal Effective Disorder’ was common in countries in the Northern Hemisphere during winter, people didn’t realise it also occurred in Australia.

“It’s far more prevalent in Australia than people imagine. We do get those people who experience the ‘winter blues’,” Dr Lansdowne said.

“From the research I have done a possible explanation is the lack of Vitamin D. I want to delve a little bit deeper and discover what triggers the phenomenon.”

In his earlier study, carried out in winter, three separate groups of people were given a high dose of Vitamin D, a medium dose and a placebo.

“What we found was that the people who took the Vitamin D had much better mood scores than people who took the placebo.”

Dr Lansdowne also surveyed people in Townsville, Brisbane, Newcastle and Hobart about mood changes in winter and found that there was virtually no difference in responses in people from Brisbane, Newcastle and Hobart.

“From the survey I sent out, 93 per cent showed some seasonal fluctuations such as mood swings, irritability, sleeping longer, eating more and socialising less.

“It might be due to vitamin D deficiency because of less sunlight. We are starting to find latitude affects for a lot of things.”

Dr Lansdowne’s other area of interest is bananas and the impact they may have on mood.

“There is a definite relationship between low levels of serotonin and depression, and tryptophan, that is in bananas, is a precursor to serotonin.

“I’d like to look at the relationship between bananas and mood. There’s a whole range of possibilities. It raises the question: could bananas act as an anti-depressant?”

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