During this past century there has been a marked increase in the lifetime risk for major depression with a decreasing age of onset. Over the same time period there have been significant changes in the intake of dietary fats, with substantially more saturated and trans fats being consumed, and less of the healthy omega-3s.
Diets such as the Standard American Diet (SAD) that emphasize processed, packaged and convenience foods are deficient in the brain-building omega-3s.
The human brain is more than 60% fat, with a significant portion made of omega-3s. The brain requires more omega-3 fatty acids than any other system in the body. With sufficient levels of omega-3s the membranes of the brain perform at their peak level which is essential for regulating mood, emotions, anxiety, sleep and staving off depression.
Research shows that countries with the highest fish consumption (containing high amounts of omega-3s) have the lowest rates of depressive disorders. Japan has the highest fish consumption in the world and the lowest rates of depression at 0.12%, whereas in North America where fish consumption is among the lowest in the world, depression rates are 50 times higher at 6%.
Over 17 million Americans experience depressive symptoms that can range from changes in eating and sleeping patterns, problems with concentration, decreased energy, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, anxiety, and mood swings. As a result of these dramatic rates of depression, antidepressant medication is at the top of the list of social expenditures for drugs in many countries.
Scientists continue to evaluate more “natural” remedies to help with mood and emotional health including the use of omega-3 fatty acids, especially, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Scientists determined that higher omega-3 fatty acid intake is correlated with a decreased risk of depression, seasonal mood changes and an overall improvement in mood.
A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry in 2002 found that 1000 mg of EPA provided the most significant improvements in depression, anxiety, sleep and libido in combination with standard antidepressant therapy.
Mood supporting nutrients like omega-3s are present in cold, deep water fatty-fish such as sardines, anchovies and mackerel. Consuming fatty fish at least twice a week as well an EPA concentrated supplement will help balance your mental health, improve mood, reduce stress and provide an overall sense of well-being.