We would like to share this article that provides detailed information on the research associated with changing moods and how cod liver oil might offer powerful protection against it.
Research reveals that omega-3 fatty acids may effectively alleviate depression without dangerous side effects. The omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may be highly effective in preventing and managing depression and cognitive decline, according to a growing body of evidence. There is a growing evidence base for omega-3s in improving mood and restoring structural integrity to brain cells that are critical in performing cognitive functions.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Depression
Consuming plenty of omega-3 fatty acids may offer powerful protection against depression. A large Norwegian study of nearly 22,000 participants revealed that those who regularly took cod liver oil, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, were about 30% less likely to have symptoms of depression than those who did not. The longer the participants took cod liver oil, the less likely they were to have high levels of depression.
Omega-3 fatty acids may also help improve mood in those who already suffer from depression. In a study at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, the effect of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation was studied in 49 patients with repeated episodes of harming themselves. In addition to standard psychiatric care, study subjects were randomly assigned to receive 1200 mg EPA plus 900 mg DHA, or placebo, for 12 weeks. At the end of the treatment period, the group receiving omega-3 fatty acids had significantly greater improvements compared with the placebo group in scores for depression, suicidality, and daily stresses. Furthermore, other studies suggest that people who are still depressed despite use of antidepressant medications may have reduced intensity of depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and sexual dysfunction when supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids.
How Omega-3s Fight Depression
Scientists are intensely examining how omega-3 fatty acids work to promote a healthy mood. It appears that a lack of DHA has far-reaching hormonal effects, increasing corticotropin-releasing hormone, a hormone
that moderates emotionality. This may in turn contribute to hyperactivity within the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, an important neuroendocrine system that regulates mood, aggression and “fight-or-flight” responses associated with anxiety. “The [evidence] is becoming quite compelling that increasing omega-3 fatty intake enhances many aspects of brain function, including the control of mood and aspects of personality,” says Brian M. Ross, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Chemistry
and Public Health at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine of Lakehead University. “For example, combining the results of a series of clinical trials clearly shows that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids, the long- chain varieties EPA and DHA, helps reduce the symptoms associated with clinical depression. Other provocative data suggest that boosting omega-3 fatty acid intake increases attention and reduces aggression, probably by enhancing cognitive processes.”
Given that brain tissue is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly in the membranes of three different types of brain cells, this link between omega-3 fatty acids and brain health is hardly surprising. These essential fatty acids are required for proper growth, development, and function of brain tissue.
“The human brain is 60% fat, and omega-3 fatty acids are the fatty acid of choice for the structure of certain parts of brain cell membranes and brain intercellular nerve connections,” say Douglas London, MD, Research Associate in Psychiatry at the Psychopharmacological Research Laboratory of McLean Hospital and medical faculty at Harvard Medical School.
Omega-3 Levels Affect Mood and Brain Function
One of the studies presented in Budapest by Sarah M. Conklin, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar in Cardiovascular Behavioral Medicine, Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, showed that in healthy adults of average age 45 years, low levels of EPA were associated with high levels of impulsive behavior, hostility, and cynical ideas. Low levels of either EPA or DHA predicted high degrees of angry feelings and outbursts.
“The omega-3 fatty acids have widespread biological functions in the body including the brain,” Dr. Conklin tells Life Extension. “Our research has shown that individuals who have higher levels of these fats in their blood are less likely to report symptoms of depression. Similarly, those who have lower levels of these fats in their blood score higher on measures of impulsiveness.” This observation supports the role of this brain region in depression and uncovers a possible mechanism by which omega-3-fatty acids act as antidepressants. “We were able to show that individuals who consumed more omega-3 fatty acids in their diets had more gray matter volume in areas of the brain important for regulating mood,” Dr. Conklin explains. “These results suggest that these specific fats, certainly not fat in general, may confer a protective effect against depression and other mood-related problems.”
The Norwegian health authorities recommend eating fish 2-3 times a week. Taking cod liver oil / or an omega 3 product as a dietary supplement might be a good alternative to secure a daily sufficient intake of fatty acids.