We have known for years that many possible factors play a role in mental health and there are various proposed antidotes to improve upon it. This can span to a nutrient rich diet, adequate exercise, building a good support system and altering other lifestyle components. But new research has been demonstrating that one nutrient in fish might actually be more effective against depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions than the traditional antidepressants and other mood stabilizers. The nutrient is an omega-3 fatty acid called EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Omega-3 fatty acids are also known for contributing positively to overall general and physical health, as well as cardiovascular health.
The American Heart Association recommends people eat fish at least twice a week, which, on average, would give individuals the recommended dose of 500 mg of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA daily. But most adults and children get closer to 100 mg or lesser than this recommended intake.
Numerous studies have shown that there is a link between anxiety, depression and low blood levels of Omega 3 fats; and empirical facts support this as research reports statistics of much lower rates of depression and anxiety in countries where fish consumption is high. Reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry, scientists administered daily doses of EPA to a group of patients with chronic depression. Three months later, more than 75% of patients reported a 50% reduction in their symptoms—predominantly emotional states of sadness and pessimism, inability to work, insomnia and low libido. All patients had previously tried other medications, including Prozac, other SSRIs and tricyclics.
Studies on ADHD demonstrated similarities. These fatty acids participate in brain development and are necessary components of brain cell plasma and membranes. As such, scientists believe that essential fatty acids may contribute to the absorption or release of neurotransmitters – i.e. chemical signals – between brain cells, which has many implications for people struggling with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or similar symptoms. Additionally research also found that children with ADHD have lower levels of omgea-3 fatty acids in their blood, compared with kids who don’t have the condition.
Although current research is promising in this area, the pure dependence on these omega fatty acids in replacement of everything else is not advisable but it will be a good idea to incorporate these supplements into one’s diet even for general overall health.
Dr Felicia Neo
PhD (Clinical Psychologist & Neuroscience)
PGDip (Clinical Psychology), BA (Psych & Mass Communications)
Clinical Psychologist, Neuroscientist