More than 6.7% of adult Americans are diagnosed with depression each year, and up to 4% of patients commit suicide. Major depression causes fatigue, anxiety, loss of pleasure and loss of drive. It can also cause sleep disorders, weight fluctuations and feelings of low self-worth or guilt.
While depression is most commonly clinically treated through therapy, medication and recommended exercise programs, research has shown that Omega 3 fatty acids can serve as a promising alternative treatment. Studies about depression were conducted after research proved Mediterranean diets were linked to lower rates of depression, particularly for their consistent intake of Omega 3 fatty acids from fish, nuts, olive oil and fresh produce.
What are Omega 3’s?
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for the proper functioning of your brain, nerves and eyes and help to keep your heart and blood healthy. A diet rich in Omega 3’s has been proven to lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and protect the heart from heart disease. Your body is unable to synthesize the production of Omega 3 fatty acids, which makes it an ‘essential nutrient’: it means that you can only get it from your dietary intake.
There are two types of Omega 3 fatty acids: Alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), which originates from nuts, seeds and plant oils and then the type from animals, which is known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
While both types are exceptionally good for your health, studies have proven that the most beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids come from oily fish, krill and squid. The World Health Organization recommends the consumption of oily fish at least twice a week to obtain the recommended amount of Omega 3’s, which is 1100 milligrams for women and 1600 milligrams for men per day.
How Do Omega 3’s Fight Depression?
Over the last 50 years, multiple studies and clinical trials were conducted to prove the effect of Omega 3’s on depression and anxiety, and the results were astounding.
A large study in Norway involving over 22000 volunteers with diagnosed symptoms of depression revealed that supplementing with fish oil for just a few weeks reduced it by as much as 30%. The longer the participants took the fish oil, the more their depression declined.
Your brain is made up of about 60% fatty tissue and the primary source of cellular support comes from an intake of Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3’s are powerful anti-inflammatory substances that help to keep neurotransmitters, nerves and cells in the brain healthy, and have proven to help in preventing dementia, memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Douglas London from the medical faculty at the Harvard School of Medicine reports: “A lack of Omega 3 fatty acids forces brain cells to utilize other fatty acids on hand, resulting in cells constructed with inferior building material. This affects brain function and is associated with cognitive and emotional disorders.”
Studies have gone as far as to prove that sufficient Omega 3 intake stimulates the growth of more gray matter, particularly in the areas of mood function.
While there are multiple complex reasons for the effect of Omega’s 3’s on depression, the simplest explanation lies in the root cause: a reduction in chronic inflammation.
Cellular inflammation in the brain leads to a marked increase in anxiety and depression. Omega 3 fatty acids help to dramatically reduce inflammation throughout the body, which has been proven to stimulate the production of dopamine and serotonin, the two happy hormones of the brain. It further helps to improve the signaling function of nerves and neurotransmitters, which greatly improves the accuracy of the perception of emotions.
How Do I Take It?
By eating oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines just twice a week you will be getting sufficient amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids, as recommended by government standards and the World Health Organization.
You can also choose to take Omega 3 supplements, which come in the form of capsules. Fish oil capsules such as Krill and Cod Liver Oil are common examples and are more beneficial than plant based sources of Omega 3, such as Flax seed oil.
In order to get the correct dosage, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional, as well as to read the labels properly: the variety of brands leads to a variety in dosage and ratio of ALA, EPA and DHA.
More Posts By Author Sophie Robinson.