Happy hands are busy hands, this old adage was very much true before the Industrial Revolution in America. As the workdays became shorter and there were fewer things to occupy a person's time addictions became a popular form of recreation after the Civil War and all through the years leading up to the Great Depression. As World War II drew to a close people in America found the purpose and now as we round the first turn of the new century the headlines are more about the generation that has been lost rather than the cut accomplishments of the great nation. Searching for answers, many medical professionals have turned to the link between nutrition and depression in order to explain the growing epidemic of mental illnesses.
Two studies done right at the turn-of-the-century found a correlation between countries with the highest rates of depression and the lowest rates of fish consumption. While this link is not conclusive evidence that a lack of omega-3 fatty acids causes depression, it does offer an interesting proposition. Increase the dietary intake of fish oil and see if the depression gets better. While studies have given intriguing results, getting rid of depression is not as simple as just increasing the intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
Scientists point to the two most active ingredients in omega-3 fish oil as the reason patients receive some benefit. These nutrients eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have led to thousands of hypotheses concerning the mechanism by which omega-3 fatty acids provide the benefit to humans. The large number of ideas translates into English as meaning no one has yet come up with the real reason it helps.
An early study by Harvard University medical school work with only 30 patients. Half of these patients were given nearly 10 g of fish oil per day and the other half received olive oil. 22 of the participants were all medications to treat their disorder and their medications were unchanged. After 120 days the group taking fish oil capsules showed a significant reduction in their disorders progression and reported less depressive feelings. The follow-up to this study in 2006 was unable to duplicate these results. While numerous small trials have shown promise there has been no trial that has provided enough significant evidence to justify much of the hype about fish oil.
Current thought continues to be that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation can provide a number of benefits but is not, and should not be considered a substitute for current medications and therapy modalities. However, it should be looked at as an enhancer for any current treatment. Dosages should be worked out with your current position. Extremely high doses (greater than 3 g per day) has shown some metabolic stress which has been mitigated by the administration of antioxidants being taken at the same time. Vitamins C and E has shown to help the body better metabolize higher dosages of fish oil.
Digestive upsets that sometimes occur when taking fish oil can be alleviated by starting with a low dose of fish oil and slowly increasing over time. Taking the supplements with meals or using and enteric-coated capsule will help relieve the symptoms.
Depression is a serious problem and requires physical and mental treatment. Fish oil is not a panacea that will immediately relieve this growing problem, but the small trials and anecdote of evidence are enough to add this generally safe nutritional supplement to your treatment regime. Omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil, and a higher intake of fish may offer relief to the many millions of people suffering from depression.
William Allen Wilson is a strong believer and writer within the Naturopathic community. He has been studying and living a naturally healthy lifestyle for more than 20 years and has recently been passing that information to his friends and family. Please visit our site Fish Oil Benefits for more information and to follow the updates as they become available.
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