Defeating Depression: as Easy as Omega-3
November 30, 2002
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, may hold the key to naturally easing depression.
In the past, studies have shown that in countries where large amounts of fish are consumed, rates of depression are low as compared with countries where little fish is consumed. This has led researchers to examine whether omega-3 fats found in the fish are responsible for the decreased evidence of depression.
One study followed patients with bipolar disorder. Half of the participants were given fish oil tablets and the other half received a placebo. After four months, half of those on the placebo had fallen into depression, but only two out the 15 people given fish oil were depressed.
Other studies have shown similar results indicating that omega-3 fatty acids may in fact relieve depression, and some psychiatrists are now recommending that their depressed patients increase their consumption of these fatty acids.
In addition to its positive effects on depression, studies have linked omega-3s with improved cardiovascular health, as well as shown them to be a potential prevention and treatment tool for certain cancers and inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Omega-3 fatty acids have also proved beneficial to the development of babies’ brains; therefore, pregnant and breast-feeding women are encouraged to consume these fatty acids. However, eating fish as a source of omega-3s can be dangerous to pregnant mothers because of potentially high levels of mercury in the fish.
One side effect that may occur from consuming increased amounts of fatty acids through fish or fish-oil tablets is an increase in dyspepsia, or indigestion that may result in gas, though researchers point out that this has been the only side effect discovered.
Researchers noted that further studies need to be done to determine whether patients would benefit from an increase in omega-3s in combination with antidepressant drugs.
ABC News September 17, 2002