Fish Oil And Depression



Fish oil and depression: what's the story here? It is said that fish oil and depression go together like this: fish oil supplements, taken regularly, can be a cure for depression and prevent its future onset. Is there really any truth to this? ...



Well, the answer to the question of whether fish oil cures depression does seem to be "yes." But the devil is in the details.

It has long been said that "fish is brain food", and with good reason. Fish, especially oily fish such as wild salmon and trout, is high in concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acids. One of the properties of these fatty acids is the strengthening of the cell membranes of neurons. It likely also strengthens the connections between neurons — the ganglions. It is widely held that a literally strong brain is more resistant to depression.

less likelihood of clinical depression

This doesn't mean that very bright people can't become depressed because. of course, they can and do. But there is less likelihood of clinical depressive meltdown when there's a strong brain, and Omega-3 fatty acids help build one.

Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid: our body doesn't produce it, it must synthesize it from what we eat. The same goes for Omega-6 fatty acids, which we also need. Omega-6 fatty acids help the body fend off viral invaders and similar pathogens by enabling tissue inflammation. Omega-3, on the other hand, keeps inflammation from getting out of hand. This is vitally important since it is now believed by many that all cancers are caused by inflammation.


According to research, we should be getting anywhere from a 1:1 to a 4:1 ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3. Unfortunately, our modern diets with their huge use of vegetable, corn, and seed oils and processed foods, and the average person's lack of sufficient amounts of fish, seafood, and legumes in the diet, are giving the vast majority of us ratios more like 10:1 to 20:1!

Omega-3 supplementation through fish oil supplements in clinical trials has added more to the fish oil and depression story. Many doctors are reporting a lot of success with treating young children who have manic-depression, depression, ADD, and ADHD with fish oil supplementation — and there are similar reports about children with autism. Some children seem completely cured by the fish oil or Omega-3 supplements, while others seem to do better with a mixture of the supplements and the synthetic drug treatments.

Another important body of research here comes from neuroscientist Andrew L. Stoll, MD, of Harvard Medical School, who has been researching the effects of fish oils on psychiatric patients who suffer from manic-depression ("bipolar disorder" these days) since 1993, when he began looking for alternatives to lithium and other synthetic drug treatments since in spite of their success rates these all have what are for many patients intolerable and strong side-effects.

Writes Dr.Stoll:

"When given the opportunity to participate in our fish oil study, [a particular patient with drug-resistant manic-depressive disorder that turned him very violent and to criminal acts] was eager indeed. The fish oil was a charm. Participating in our double-blind study, he had no way of knowing whether his capsules contained fish oil or placebo, yet he announced almost immediately that whatever we were giving him, it worked! His mood swings and rages stopped abruptly, and he felt well for the first time in his life. He has remained on fish oil supplements for three years."

No panacea


Dr. Stoll does point out that fish oil supplements should not be automatically regarded as a panacea for those who suffer from depressive disorders. Nevertheless, the link between fish oil and depression seems well established.

Fish oil and depression seem to be, at least for many people, "cure and that which is cured". Perhaps fish oil supplements are right for you — and even if you aren't a depressive person, they may keep you that way.

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