You'd never guess it, but according to David Mischoulon, MD, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, most of us are deficient in fat. But Dr Mischoulon isn't talking about just any fat - rather, he's talking about omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, flaxseed and some nuts.
Studies have proven that an omega-3 deficiency can cause or worsen depression. Read on to better understand the link between omega-3 deficiency and depression plus how to get these fatty acids in your diet.
Statistics show that eating fatty fish helps seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
SAD is a mood disorder characterised by depression
that occurs at the same time every year.
According to Dr Mischoulon, statistics reveal that populations like Iceland and Japan that consume more fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel and trout, have lower rates of SAD.
Studies suggest that omega-3s can treat postpartum depression
Studies haven’t confirmed it yet, but a growing body of research suggests that omega-3s can treat postpartum depression – depression that occurs after childbirth – says Dr Mischoulon.
So far, research has been able to prove that women who develop postpartum depression tend to be deficient in omega-3. Furthermore, because taking medication like antidepressants can be foetus and child (through breastfeeding), doctors think omega-3s may be an excellent preventive treatment during pregnancy.
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Omega-3s can help relieve mild depression but not severe depression or bipolar disorder
While the researchers behind these studies don’t suggest that people with severe depression or bipolar disorder use omega-3s as a first-line treatment, the latest research confirms that people with mild depression can use omega-3s as a natural depression remedy or an adjuvant to medication.
Dr Mischoulon explains that omega-3 supplements have a different effect on the brain to antidepressants. Therefore, incorporating omega-3 supplements into your antidepressant regimen is a way to attack the brain disorder from a different front.
How to pack more omega-3s in your diet
Dr Mischoulon says that the best way to consume more omega-3s is to eat more omega-3-rich foods, such as salmon, halibut, walnuts, flaxseed and fish oil. Alternatively, omega-3 supplements are available in capsule or liquid form (fish oil).
He recommends taking between 0.5 g and 2 g daily. However, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that the daily consumption of omega-3 fatty acids from all sources shouldn’t exceed 3 g.