The American Heart Association currently recommends that all Americans consume fish, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids, twice per week. This recommendation is based upon evidence that a diet high in fish is associated with improved heart health and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. While this basic incentive for increasing omega-3 intake is well-recognized, relatively less well-known are the potential mental health benefits omega-3s offer us.
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may positively influence mood, personality and behavior, according to results of several studies taking place in recent years. In 2006, a study of 106 healthy volunteers revealed that those participants who had lower blood levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids were also more likely to report mild-to-moderate symptoms of depression, and be more impulsive in their behavior. By contrast, those with higher blood levels of omega-3s were found to be more agreeable in attitude and behavior.
In addition, omega-3s have also been used in studies involving more serious degrees of depression. One such study, a double-blind, randomized controlled trial involving patients diagnosed with bipolar depression was conducted. As compared to the placebo group, significant improvement was noted in the experimental groups receiving either one or two grams of the omega-3 fatty acid known as ethyl-eicosapentaenoic acid—or EPA—through testing via the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD).
While this disorder involves no major physiological component, it can carry consequences every bit as debilitating; there is little doubt that suffering occurs as a result of its prevalence. According to CDC statistics, an estimated one in 10 adults in the U.S. currently suffers from some degree of depression—amounting to approximately 23 million Americans. Along with the estimated 76 million U.S. citizens who have hypertension, the benefits of such a widely-applicable nutrient—that offers help for both heart and mind—are appealing indeed.