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October 2011
Banish Depression with Fish Oil                                                                       

Life can be tough; everyone gets the blues from time to time. For some, however, sadness, fatigue and lack of motivation are debilitating and constant. In fact, Mental Health America (formerly known as the National Mental Health Association) says that over 21 million adults and children in the US are affected by depression every year. Luckily, it’s never too late to do something about it. Emerging studies show that fish oil can help to promote healthy neurological function and decrease the risk of major depression. October 6th is National Depression Screening Day, so why not celebrate by getting screened and taking natural steps to reclaim your life?

The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, especially eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are vital to normal brain function. Low levels are typically present in those suffering from depression and other mood disorders. It makes sense that more and more studies are showing the promise of fish oil to treat depression, some indicating it to be as effective as traditional antidepressant medications. An ABC News article by John McKenzie cites a study in which researchers fed omega-3 fatty acids to piglets. The results showed that the omega-3 fatty acids “had the same effect on the brain as the antidepressant Prozac” in that they increased serotonin. Dr. Joseph Hibbeln, a senior clinical investigator at the National Institutes of Health, says that the piglets had "double the level of serotonin in their frontal cortex, in the part of the brain that regulates depression and impulsivity," after less than 3 weeks.  

Clinical evidence has also shown that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil can help those who have not responded to traditional medication. McKenzie cites another study conducted at Sheffield University in England that showed significant improvement in 69% of depressed subjects taking omega-3 fatty acids after 12 weeks. These subjects had found mainstream antidepressant drugs ineffective. And in USA Today, Gregg Zoroya writes of a report in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry indicating that men in the Armed Services whose DHA levels were low “were 62% more likely to commit suicide.” Though the researchers involved in the study are not advocating fish oil as a form of suicide prevention, the findings are promising. Despite the need for more studies, Dr. Hibbeln, who co-authored the report, says that “the potential psychiatric benefits of omega-3s could be a factor in reducing the suicides” of men in the Armed Forces. 

If you’ve been experiencing persistent symptoms of depression, make this October 6th count and get a depression screening. Work with your doctor to find the best treatment for you, and be sure to include high quality sources of fish oil for its multitude of mental and physical health benefits. In an article on mayoclinic.com, Dr. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin says that though there is still some question on the best dose of fish oil, “it appears that supplements containing 100 to 300 milligrams of either EPA or a combination of EPA and DHA may be helpful in relieving depression.”

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