Do The Omega 3 Fish Oils Have A Measurable Impact on Mental Health?
A recent study in Spain has shown that diets that are high in trans-fats can cause depression. This Omega 3 fish oil study seems to be quite prolific throughout the media. Other studies have shown that a deficiency or plethora of vitamin D has a neo-natal effect on the fetus that could result in a predisposition to schizophrenia; and now we are learning about the impact of trans-fats in our diet as well. Other studies have revealed that diets that are high in omega 9 fatty acids such as fish oil or olive oil may have an effect on mood stabilization. Omega 3 fish oil studies have shown that fish oil for depression has some medicinal qualities as well as taking fish oil for bipolar disorder. These are usually effective in treating mild depression; however, treating severe depression often requires more intensive therapy. I don’t think there are any Omega 3 fish oil studies out there that claim to treat major depression. Other studies have been dubious with regards to the effects these fatty acids have on mood disorders; none the less, there seems to be enough benefit to pursue further studies on these natural remedies and definitely the deleterious consequences of the trans-fats on our bodies. Regardless of your views on the Omega 3 fish oil studies, at least we can agree to stay away from trans-fats.
Do these fats in the body (and brain) cause depression or merely increase the incidence of those who are already predisposed to depression? Secondly it is not clear whether or not this is clinical depression (i.e. a true major depressive disorder or dysthymic disorder) which has a basis in the chemistry of the brain or is it more of a situational depression (i.e. a short-lived reaction to a difficult situation in one’s life that may or may not meet criteria for major depressive disorder). One thing is certain: we need to eat for life! Regardless of the depth or degree of the depression involved in the findings of this study or other Omega 3 fish oil studies; we know that a good diet and exercise promotes the production of endorphins which are in part responsible for our moods. Before starting on any Omega Oils it is wise to check with your practitioners, especially if you have any cardiac issues and are on medication for cholesterol.
Highlights of the Omega 3 Fish Oil Studies
- The study was conducted at the universities of Navarra at Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
- 12,000 persons took part in the study which is a good sample size.
- At the outset, none of the participants were diagnosed with depression.
- By the end of the study 657 of them were suffering from depression.
- Participants with elevated trans-fats presented up to a 48% increase in the risk of depression.
- The research team found, at the same time, that after assessing the impact of polyunsaturated fats composed of larger amounts of fish and vegetable oils and olive oil, these products “are associated with a lower risk of suffering depression.”
- The report pointed out that the current number of depression sufferers in the world is around 150 million people, and has increased in recent years.
What is questionable about depression is that it seems to be epidemic in growth over recent decades. Is this due to better diagnosing, the de-stigmatizing of mental illness, or are the chemical and toxins in our air, water, and fatty diets responsible for the increased incidents? Many studies are being conducted on all of these areas in addition to the impact that our environment plays as well. We know that carcinogenic substances can alter the genetic code of our cells and thus cause cancer and other illnesses; so is it so far fetched an idea that our foods, stress, and other pollutants can alter our DNA and be responsible for a mental disorder? Studies have shown that stressors on a fetus can change the genes in such a way to make an individual susceptible to generalized anxiety disorder. Other studies have suggested that alcohol consumed during pregnancy might be one of the causes for schizophrenia. Now, it appears that taking in our daily need for fish oil in the amount of about 5,000 mg or 5 grams in the form of Omega 3 Fatty Acids (i.e. in roughly equivalent amounts of both EPA and DHA), is not just good for our hearts; but it is also good for our brains. Most people are unaware that they need this amount in their diet. It is easiest to get this in the form of a liquid. As a Scottsdale Psychiatrist, I often speak with patients who prefer the alternative medicines over pharmacological treatment. I will suggest that they try the alternative therapy for a while and see if it works for them. If the natural therapy doesn’t work for their situation, I will then begin traditional therapy with them. I seldom see a conflict of interest with vitamins and omega fatty acids; however, there are times when some natural therapies are in direct conflict with traditional medicine and can even have a deleterious effect on the prescription medications.