Fish Oil and Good Mental Health – What Are the Connections?

By admin / October 29, 2007
By: Craig Elliott
Category: Depression

Fish oil is not a new thing in the annals of medical care and nutrition. Cod liver oil was a standard health treatment throughout the past few centuries. The oils found in fatty, coldwater fish have been considered a cure to feeling "peaky" for generations. These days, fish oil - particularly those fish oils high in omega 3 fatty acids - are being touted as a cure-all for just about everything from diabetes to depression. What's the connection between fish oil and good mental health? Fish Oil and Depression
There have been a number of studies on Omega-3 fish oil supplements in the past twenty years. Nearly all of them have indicated that omega-3 fatty acids have a profound effect on memory and mood. A population based study, for instance, showed that the rate of depression in Japan, where people eat a lot of seafood, is 60 times lower than in New Zealand, where the consumption of seafood - and therefore omega-3 fatty acids - is low. In one of the most dramatic studies into the effects of fish oil on depression, researchers at McLean's Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts gave supplements containing fish oil to patients diagnosed with depression. Other patients were given supplements containing olive oil. Sixty-five percent of the patients in the fish oil group reported an improvement in their mood as opposed to nineteen percent of those taking olive oil. The resulting improvement of symptoms in those taking fish oil was so profound, in fact, that the doctor conducting the experiment felt ethically bound to suspend the study early in order to offer the fish oil treatment to those in the control group. These results are similar to the results of studies in Israel, New Zealand and at the National Institute for Mental Health. The Omega 3 Connection
The key to the remarkable effect of fish oil on depression seems to be in omega-3, a substance that is found in high amounts in cold water fatty fish - and barely at all in any other food. Omega 3 is one of several essential fatty acids that are the basic building blocks of the body's cells. Omega 3 is used by the body to build the cell walls and structures of brain cells and to help rebuild the pathways between neurons. When Omega 3 is not available, the body will use omega 6, another essential fatty acid that is used by the body to build walls in less specialized cells. The cell walls built with omega 6 are more fragile than those built with omega 3. The cells are shaped slightly differently and don't fit together in quite the same way as those built with omega 3. Messages transmitted over the pathways built with those cells get scrambled or don't arrive at all. Among the conditions that have been associated with a deficiency of omega 3 fatty are Alzheimer's disease, depression and schizophrenia. Fish, particularly cold water fish like mackerel, tuna and salmon are among the best sources of omega 3. The omega 3 fatty acid is concentrated in their fatty cells - which is why fish oil is a concentrated source of omega 3 EFA. The typical diet of people in industrialized nations is deficient in all of the essential fatty acids, but it is especially deficient in omega 3, which is found almost exclusively in cold water fish. The problem is even more complex than a simple matter of poor diet. It is not just that people don't eat enough fish. The fish that are available are often contaminated with mercury and other pollutants which can cause even more problems than they fix. Memory and behavioral conditions seem to respond well to being treated with fish oil supplements. Depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, Reynaud's syndrome and even addiction have been associated with deficiencies of omega 3 in the diet. The best solution would be to increase the amount of omega 3 that we consume, which may be best accomplished with fish oil supplements. However, experts caution, cod liver oil is not the best supplement for this purpose as the dosage required to supply enough omega 3 to combat depression may contain far too much vitamin A. You also should consult your doctor before taking fish oil to treat depression or any other mental condition. There are a number of medications that should not be combined with fish oil supplements, in particular any anti-coagulants and blood thinners. In addition, if you believe that you are dealing with depression or another mental condition, you should be under a doctor's care to help evaluate and track your symptoms and to have full access to all of the treatments that are available to treat depression. About Author:
Craig Elliott is a writer for CareLink. CareLink is a leading provider of Community Support Services| Depression Anxiety Treatment



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