(NaturalNews) The omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) decreases aggressive behavior in young adults, studies have shown. Notably, having more DHA in the diet appears to help young people cope better with stressful situations.
One of the earlier studies into this effect was conducted by researchers from Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical University in Japan and published in 1996. In a double-blind study, 41 male and female students were assigned to take daily capsules containing either between 1.5 and 1.8 g of DHA or a placebo consisting of 97 percent soybean oil and 3 percent fish oil. At both the beginning and end of the study, participants were given tests measuring their frustration response, reaction time and any symptoms of dementia.
The study began at the end of students' summer vacation and continued for three months. The study concluded during a stressful time in each student's life, such as final exams.
The researchers found that while participants in the control groups showed a significant increase in their aggression toward others when under stress, no such change was seen among participants who had been taking DHA. As expected, there was no change in reaction time or dementia symptoms among either group.
Less hostility, impulsiveness, aggressive behavior
In another study, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2004, researchers questioned 3,581 California young adults about their fish intake and administered tests to measure their tendencies toward hostility. They found that young adults with more omega-3s in their diets were significantly less prone to hostility.
"These results suggest that high dietary intake of DHA and consumption of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids may be related to lower likelihood of high hostility in young adulthood," the researchers said. "The association between dietary omega-3 fatty acids and hostile personality merits further research."
Like the researchers in the 1996 study, the 2004 researchers noted that reductions in aggression might actually be linked to the well-established cardiovascular benefits of omega-3s.
"Hostility has been shown to predict both the development and manifestation of coronary disease," the researchers said. "Examining the inter-relation of dietary intake of fish and of polyunsaturated (omega-3 and omega-6) essential fatty acids with hostility may provide additional insights into the cardio protective effect of dietary fish and polyunsaturated fatty acids."
These findings have recently gained further support in a study conducted by researchers from the University of Swansea, Wales, and published in the journal Human Psychopharmacology. In a randomized, double-blind trial, researchers assigned 200 young adult men without a history of aggression or impulsiveness to take either 672 mg of DHA, a multivitamin and mineral supplements, or a placebo daily. After three months, aggressiveness and impulsivity significantly decreased in the DHA group compared with both the placebo and multivitamin groups, even though participants in the multivitamin group reported a decrease in their perceived stress levels.
Many benefits to omega-3s
Decreased aggression and impulsivity are just two of many benefits to a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. A robust body of research now supports the ability of omega-3s to decrease blood pressure and the risk of heart disease, regulate inflammation and relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Other research suggests that omega-3s can decrease the risk of certain cancers and improve overall cognitive health.
Indeed, the effects of omega-3s on the brain are only just beginning to be understood. A number of studies have linked higher dietary omega-3 intake to lower rates of depression and other psychological disorders, and omega-3 supplementation has shown effectiveness as a depression treatment in clinical trials.