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Depression: How Does Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake Affect This? - CAPT. Hibbeln, M.D.

By CAPT. Joseph R. Hibbeln Expert
 
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CAPT. Hibbeln, M.D., shares why you should consume omega-3 fatty acids if you suffer from depression and discusses optimal intake levels.

CAPT. Hibbeln, M.D.:
Even though we don’t really have specific and adequate data of treatment studies of omega-3 fatty acids in depression, I think it is fair and safe to extrapolate from the use of omega-3s and other depressions that are very similar and depression during pregnancy, in many ways, is not that different than other depressions.

Now in that case, we have not only the cross-national data showing lower prevalence rates of depression but when we look in people’s blood, lower levels of omega-3s and especially DHA and EPA predict greater severity of depressive symptoms.

We know that these omega-3 fatty acids at low levels in animal studies, deplete levels of brain dopamine by half and brain serotonin by half, fundamental neurotransmitters in depression.

We know that during deficiency synapses can’t grow because synapses are literally made of DHA and that part of neuroplasticity is impaired during omega-3 deficiencies and that’s critical for depression.

So we get to the hard nuts and bolts of randomized placebo-controlled trials, we now have 21 cases of omega-3s compared to placebo and we show a huge treatment effect, especially when the omega-3s are primarily EPA, one that probably has more immune system regulation than DHA.

And in that case where the preparation was greater EPA, like 2:1 EPA, 1 to DHA, in that case the treatment effect size was a huge whopping 1.0.

Now in comparison the treatment effect size of most antidepressants are about 0.2 or 0.3. So the affect of reducing depressive symptoms may be four or five times larger than standard antidepressants, without side effects, and affecting multiple levels of the biology of depression

And because of that we have in 2006 established treatment recommendations from the American Psychiatric Association that anyone with a depressive illness or psychiatric illness should eat at least a gram a day of omega-3 fatty acids.

If for nothing else than to prevent the medical comorbidity of cardiovascular disease and other aspects of physical health that accompany mental ill health.

About CAPT. Joseph R. Hibbeln, M.D.:
Joseph R. Hibbeln, M.D., is a Captain in the United States Public Health Service. He is the acting chief on the Section of Nutritional Neurosciences at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. CAPT. Hibbeln is a psychiatrist, a lipid biochemist, and an epidemiologist.

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