If you have ever heard of omega-3 fatty acids, you are likely aware of its benefits as a healthy fat with a number of potential benefits for the body. Like other important substances, such as Vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids can not be produced by the body and are therefore an integral part of a wholesome diet. For this reason, most physicians recommend that patients consume fish, nuts and other omega-3-rich products, or fish oil supplements if their diet alone isn’t sufficient. Patients who regularly eat this essential fat have been shown to lower their inflammation levels, reduce symptoms of ADHD, and promote a healthy heart. Now, researchers have revealed yet another reason to take your daily fish oil capsule or cook salmon for dinner: omega-3 fatty acid can have a significant and beneficial effect on depression.
In a study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, a London research team found that even short courses of omega-3 nutritional supplements, such as fish oil, were able to reduce the rate of new-onset depression to 10%. One of the journal’s editors, John Krysal, M.D., commented that the new data provided additional and important support to previous studies, which had found that omega-3s were able to enhance anti-depressant treatments.
According to the scientists, including Dr. Carmine Pariante, a Professor at King’s College London, the relief of depression symptoms could likely be due to omega-3’s ability to decrease inflammation. A link between inflammation and depression has been noted in the past: for example, a common treatment for chronic hepatitis C, called interferon-alpha treatment, results in inflammation and has been shown to cause depression in 30% of patients. By treating patients who reported both, Pariante’s team was able to noticeably reduce the number of depression diagnoses within two weeks.
The study’s findings could be extremely helpful to many people who suffer the effects of depression. One of the most common neurological conditions in the world, the CDC reports that an estimated one in 10 American adults will experience the disorder’s symptoms. In addition to the depression itself, which can cause weight fluctuations, insomnia and other problems, the condition has also been shown to negatively impact common chronic conditions, such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. By consuming increased levels of omega-3, patients could not only help treat their depression, but also prevent symptoms from forming.
Unlike other products used to treat depression, the researchers report that the omega-3 supplements were well-tolerated by the patients and caused no serious side-effects even as it delayed the onset of depressive symptoms. While psychiatrists likely won’t start recommending fish oil as the cure-all treatment for depression any time soon, patients with inflammatory diseases and chronic illnesses might benefit from adding more omega-3-rich products to their diet. Dr. Pariante and her team, as well as the editorial staff at Biological Psychiatry would certainly agree.