Fish oil a balm for depression: studies Last Updated Wed, 20 Aug 2003 14:11:12
BOSTON - Fish oil may contain ingredients to help treat depression, according to new research.
Scientists in the U.S. say omega-3 fatty acids, present in fish oil, seem to act as an anti-depressant.
"We've been very impressed by the response rates we've observed," said Dr. David Mischoulon of the Massachusetts General Hospital. Mischoulon oversaw clinical trials using omega-3.
Scientists first became interested in the fish oil treatment after noticing countries with high fish consumption had the lowest rates of depression.
One study found mothers in England who ate very little fish during pregnancy doubled their risk of developing postpartum depression.
Jim LaBonte took part in the Massachusetts study. LaBonte was diagnosed with depression four years ago. He complained Prozac left him with no emotions and stopped taking it.
LaBonte took the omega-3 fatty acid DHA every day. Within three weeks, he says he noticed a difference. He's now been on it for eight months.
"I'm fine today. Not only do I not feel as blue, but when (depressed feelings) do come, I am able to handle it."
Mischoulon says LaBonte's experience is similar to many others undergoing the treatment.
"It's pretty clear in our minds that these treatments work."
Mischoulon's is one of several studies around the world looking at the link between fish oil and depression.
One study discovered that omega-3 fatty acids raised the levels of serotonin, critical to feeling good, in piglets. It had the same effect on the brain as Prozac.
At Sheffield University, 70 depressed patients were given omega-3. None of them had success with drugs such as Prozac. After 12 weeks, almost 70 per cent of patients showed a marked improvement.
The studies suggest one gram a day of omega-3 fatty acids can be an effective treatment, whether in the form of a supplement or by eating fish — salmon, tuna, sardines — a few times a week.
(One gram of fatty acids contains only 9 calories, by the way - it won't kill anyone's diet or make them fat. -NN)