Defeating Depression: as Easy as Omega-3

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November 30, 2002 | 40,902 views

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

There are a number of studies that show that fish oils are associated with decreased depression.

If this subject interests you, I highly recommend Dr. Stoll's book The Omega-3 Connection. He is a Harvard psychiatrist who has done a great job of compiling the evidence supporting the use of fish oils for depression.

It is important to recognize that I no longer recommend taking fish oil in capsule form. Ideally, fish oil should be consumed in a liquid form, as then there is no gelatin capsule to digest. Using high quality oil is essential to ensure that the product is pure and fresh, though it can be hard to locate a good brand in stores.

The dose for both the cod liver or plain fish oil liquid is about one teaspoon for every 50 pounds of body weight per day. So, if you weigh 150 pounds that would be about one tablespoon (three teaspoons) per day. This is the equivalent of 15 typical fish oil capsules. This is a good initial dose for most people, but if you notice any belching or repeating it is likely your gallbladder is not digesting the fish oil properly and you may need to take a high potency enzyme with plenty of the fat digesting enzyme lipase.

If you continue to have nausea with the fish oil, it is probably wise to activate the Listen to Your Body Principle and avoid the fish oil until you can be evaluated by a competent natural health care practitioner.

Many people are confused about the difference between fish oil liquid and cod liver oil. It helps to consider cod liver oil as fish oil Plus. It is the same as fish oil, but it has natural vitamin D and A. For most of us, during the winter this becomes an important consideration as we don’t receive enough sun exposure to generate the vitamin D we need to provide us with all the health benefits vitamin D has to offer.

If you are unsure about your vitamin D levels, you should have them measured. Ideally, everyone should. If you overdose on vitamin D you can actually cause osteoporosis and hardening of your arteries as it causes a reverse effect. Unfortunately, very few physicians offer this test.

A recent study highlighted another reason for pregnant women to supplement their diets with fish oil. (J Affect Disord 2002 May;69(1-3):15-29) The study showed that mothers transfer DHA, a fatty acid found in fish oil, to their fetuses to support optimal neurological development during pregnancy. If the woman doesn’t receive enough DHA, she runs the risk of developing severe postpartum depression.