Fish Oil Essential for Depression and Mental Health
Omega-3s are a safe, simple, natural treatment for depression, mental health, and enhancing mood without side effects. Andrew Stoll, a psychiatrist and director of the Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory at
is author of the book The Omega-3
Connection. The book is designed to educate about benefits of fish oil and
help readers restore their natural balance of omega-3 fatty acids, which are
found in high concentrations in the brain. McClean Hospital
Over the past century, people in the
have largely eliminated omega-3 fatty
acids from their diet, due to the huge consumption of processed foods and a
low-fat diet craze. United
However, there is reason to be concerned about bad fats. Sixty-eight percent of people die from three degenerative diseases that involve fatty degeneration. They include cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. Some fats are absolutely required for good health, while others detrimental. The most dangerous fats are those found in margarines, shortenings, heated oils, cheese, and some meats, but we need the healing fatty acids. Omega-3s are essential for optimal function of every cell in our bodies and we cannot manufacture them internally. They can be obtained only through our diet.
As a Licensed Professional Counselor, I have seen amazing positive results with depressed persons who are taking fish oil supplements.
Stoll, on the faculty of
was interested in alternatives for bipolar patients. He conducted extensive
searches on medical research papers to find substances with properties similar
to standard mood stabilizers, lithium and valproate. After he and his
colleague, Dr. Emauel Severus, reviewed hundreds of papers, they pulled up one
match time and again—common fish oil. Harvard
Fish oils are already known for their roll in preventing heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s disease. They may also be responsible for protecting against arthritis, diabetes, and some psychiatric disorders. The brain requires more omega-3 and fatty acids than any other system in the body. According to Dr. Stoll, without omega-3s, the brain cannot function normally, so even the most powerful antidepressants will be unable to improve mood. For optimum health, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids should be eaten in nearly equal proportions. Omega-6 fatty acids are contained in vegetable and seed oils, including olive oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oils. Omega-3s are more difficult to obtain, and are most often from fish oil. Flax oil and seed contains some Omega-3s.
In addition, omega-3s are safe and effective supplements for pregnancy, nursing mothers, and postpartum depression. Blood levels of omega-3s decrease during the later stages of pregnancy and stay low, because the fetus receives these essential lipids preferentially (especially if there is a shortage). Lack of omega-3s can damage a mothers health after birth and cause major postpartum depression. These fatty acids are so important in cell-signaling pathways, and are vital to the function of many brain systems, including those neural systems regulating mood and emotions. Research indicates that a lack of omega-3s during pregnancy may impair development of the visual system of a fetus, and may also compromise future intelligence.
Evening Primrose is another Omega 3 that is particularly helpful for PMS (premenstrual syndrome), irritability, mood swings, and cramps.
There is some evidence that attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) might be rooted in a deficiency of the omega-3 fatty acids. Researchers noticed that in two groups of children it was found that those who had omega-3 deficiency and ADHD had similarities. Both had excess thirst, greater frequency of dry hair and skin, and an increased need to urinate. When they tested the blood levels of the ADHD subjects they found that 40 percent had low levels of omega-3s.
Dr. Stoll recommends 1 to 2 grams (1000-to 2000 milligrams) of fish oil daily for health, mood, or cognitive improvement.