(Natural News) A recent review of decades of translational evidence showed that a deficiency in long chain omega-3 fatty acids can ultimately lead to depression. Conversely, increasing one’s intake of omega-3s through supplements could help prevent or treat the disorder.
Both major and minor forms of depression affect a significant number of people around the world, many of whom are adolescents. Depression is considered to be a cause for excess premature mortality due to heart disease and suicide.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is typically treated with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). However, around 30 to 40 percent continue to show symptoms and the treatment itself might contribute to suicide and mania in patients.
Numerous studies have sought out better ways to improve treatment and prevention strategies for MDD. One potential means, proposed a University of Cincinnati (UC) study, might be found in the habitual diet of patients. (Related: Band-aid “solutions” to a bigger problem? Why antidepressants are not the answer.)
Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids can lead to depression
Thirty years worth of translational evidence suggested essential long-chain omega-3 (LCn-3) fatty acids in the diet can affect the development and symptoms of MDD. Furthermore, the evidence suggests that a deficiency in those LCn-3 fatty acids increased the chances of heart disease and suicide in MDD patients.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that can be found in certain foods. The best sources include algal-based supplements, fish oil, and fatty cold water fish like salmon, trout, and tuna.
Cross-national evidence suggests that eating fish on a regular basis increases the levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), two important omega-3 acids. As healthy human beings are unable to bio-synthesize polyunsaturated fatty acids – like the omega-3 group – they get most of their LCn-3 fatty acids from their regular diet.
Epidemiological surveys in multiple nations have noted the inverse relationship between the amount of fish or seafood consumed and the prevalence of depression and bipolar disorders in those countries. The studies showed that the higher the amount of fish in a diet, the lower the risk of depression.
The reverse is also true. Furthermore, low levels of erythrocyte EPA and DHA appeared to be linked with a higher risk for suicide and cardiovascular disease, two of the leading causes of death for depressed adolescents.
Omega-3 fatty acid supplements could prevent depression
Taking supplements of those two omega-3 fatty acids could improve the effectiveness of current SSRI treatments that are used to treat depression. It might even help prevent the onset of depression or even treat existing symptoms.
In addition, studies of the brain structure and development of rodents showed that long-chain omega-3 fatty acid levels cause the brain to develop features that are found in patients with MDD. Giving dietary fish oil fortification to the animals during the tests reduced behavior associated with depression.
Finally, the latest findings suggest that omega-3 fatty acid deficiency increases pro-inflammatory responses in the brain, which increases the risk of depression. The combination of this and all preceding data strongly suggested that the lack of dietary LCn-3 fatty acid deficiency is a modifiable risk factor for major depressive disorder.
Based on this, the study suggested that routine clinical screening and treatment methods for MDD should consider looking for omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies. Furthermore, these tests should be performed early in order to prevent the development of depression and treat any symptoms that have already appeared.
Study author Robert McNamara also conducted a preliminary test where patients with MDD are screened for their EHA and DHA levels. Participants deficient in those nutrients are given omega-3 supplements. The results are promising.
Read more articles about the protective benefits of natural supplements at SupplementsReport.com.