I’ve posted several articles before referencing how common depression is and its influence on emotional state and every aspect of daily living. Depression is also a condition which can potentially influence one’s daily choices, thus reducing the likelihood of positive lifestyle changes and the subsequent beneficial impacts on symptomology and emotional wellbeing. It is often a condition that develops after diagnosis of a separate long term condition such as obesity or cardiovascular disease. Due to the impact on emotional state and potential presence of additional symptoms associated with comorbidities it is of great importance for individuals to identify small changes that have significant impacts on emotional health whilst also being sustainable over a long duration of time. Small tweaks to nutritional intake or in some cases, although not preferable, supplementation may be efficacious in improving individual health and wellbeing.
Omega 3 can be found in numerous foods including fish, seeds and nuts. It can also be consumed through supplements such as fish oils or omega 3 tablets. Due to the fatty acid being relatively easy to access for most individuals it provides a potentially feasible solution to individuals lacking in motivation to make larger lifestyle changes, which can be common in individuals experiencing clinical depression.
Numerous randomized controlled trials (studies separating participants into treatment groups and placebo groups without informing participants of their placement) have been conducted on the influence of omega 3 consumption and depressive symptoms.
One study (Sinn et al, 2012) looked at the impact of DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid), fatty acids which make up omega 3, on depressive scores in elderly individuals with mild cognitive impairment. The researchers found that both EPA and DHA displayed significant positive reductions in depressive scores, however DHA was more influential. A recent literature review on the influence of increased omega 3 intake on depressive symptoms supported these findings across various populations however concluded that EPA may have greater influence (Sublette et al, 2011).
It has been suggested that increased omega 3 intake may reduce inflammation (Kiecolt-Glaser et al, 2012) which has been demonstrated in individuals with depression and other conditions relating to increased inflammatory markers (Su et al, 2014) and is thought to link to other long term conditions also displaying increased prevalence of depressive symptoms.
These findings and numerous other studies provide insight into potential nutritional changes that can have a hugely beneficial impact on individuals displaying depressive symptoms. The addition of a couple of meals containing oily fish throughout the week may be enough to improve emotional state. The accessibility of omega supplementation provides opportunity for those lacking motivation to prepare food during times of low mood, to still experience the significant benefits of increased consumption, although whole food is certainly preferable. Whilst the jury is still out on DHA and EPA I’d suggest that EPA is of more benefit, although consumption of both is likely the best option.
Overall increasing consumption appears to be an extremely efficient way of individuals diagnosed with depression to improve overall function. Combining nutritional adaptations such as this, with increased daily activity is likely to have noticeable benefit to an individual’s wellbeing. It’s certainly worth consideration.
As always check with your doctor before making any dietary changes. Too much omega-3 can have negative effects, including increase likelihood of unwanted bleeding.
Jack Barton (Researcher, Rescon Ltd)
Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Belury, M. A., Andridge, R., Malarkey, W. B., Hwang, B. S. et al. (2012). Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation in healthy middle-aged and older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 26(6), 988-995.
Sinn, N., Milte, C. M., Street, S. J., Buckley, J. D., Coates, A. M. et al. (2012). Effects of n-3 fatty acids, EPA v. DHA, on depressive symptoms, quality of life, memory and executive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment: a 6-month randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Nutrition, 107(11), 1682-1693.
Su, K. P., Lai, H. C., Yang, H. T., Su, W. P., Peng, C. Y. et al. (2014). Omega-3 Fatty Acids in the Prevention of Interferon-Alpha-Induced Depression: Results from a Randomized, Controlled Trial. Biological Psychiatry.
Sublette, M. E., Ellis, S. P., Geant, A. L., & Mann, J. J. (2011). Meta-analysis: Effects of eicosapentaenoic acid in clinical trials in depression. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 72(12), 1577.