Improving mental health may be a fish story. Fat….it should all be in your head. Data suggests that populations that consume large amounts of fish appear to have relatively low rates of major depression. Rates of depression are high and increasing in parts of the world (eg, United States and Western Europe) where changes in agriculture and food technology have shifted diets away from omega-3 fatty acids toward omega-6 fatty acids (from commercial and processed vegetable oils). Studies have shown improvements in depression, bipolar disorders, mood, ADHD, schizophrenia and may hold promise for other inflammatory disorders such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and asthma as well as spinal cord and traumatic brain injury.
The brain is largely made up of fat and fatty acids. Fish oil has EPA and DHA and the brain is largely made up of the DHA component as well as other phospholipids. Inflammation has been shown to be present in a host of brain disorders and fish oils have an anti-inflammatory effect. Inflammation causes cell excitation, increased oxidative stress and cell death. We were designed to have a 2 to 1 ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids and the Standard American Diet (SAD) has shifted that ratio to 25 to 1 with the balance shifted towards fatty acids that are more inflammatory. There are many compelling studies that indicate Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have therapeutic potential in neurology and psychiatry. Enrichment of cell membranes in DHA can lead to subtle changes in plasma membrane which is the cells “doorman” allowing signals and nutrients to get through and waste to be removed.
While fish oil with emphasis on the DHA component shows promise in improving or managing these conditions, there is no substitute for a healthy lifestyle of exercise, good nutrition, reduction of toxins such as herbicides, pesticides and heavy metals known to affect neurological conditions, a good nights sleep and stress management, as well as other supplements that improve nerve transmission and circulation. The good news is that if you are deficient, a good quality supplement may improve your condition and you can have tests to measure the balance of fats as well as oxidative stress. Have a fatty acid profile done to look for balance of inflammatory versus anti-inflammatory fats and seek expert advice on how to improve your mental health.
Dr. Lorraine Maita has expertise in nutrition and supplements and is a Diplomate in The American Academy of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine and Internal Medicine. She specializes in lifestyle, exercise, nutrition, supplements, executive physicals, bioidentical hormone replacement, neurocognitive function and stress management in Short Hills, NJ
From Clinical Lipidology Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Their Neuroprotective and Regenerative Potential in Traumatic Neurological Injury Posted: 11/18/2009; Clin Lipidology. 2009;4(3):343-353. © 2009
Behavioral Health Matters: Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Mental Health http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/409997