Omega-3 EPA May Help with Depression, Inflammation

woman-holding-headRight now more than 120 million people worldwide suffer from some form of depression, and that number is growing every year. As scientists work to understand more about depressive disorders and their impact on human health, recent studies have uncovered a link between depression and high levels of inflammation in the body—a link that was the focus of a new joint study by Emory and Harvard Universities.

For the purpose of the study, researchers recruited more than 150 men and women previously diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Participants were measured for specific biomarkers indicating inflammation and grouped according to their inflammation levels (either high or low). Over the next eight weeks, they received one of the following on a daily basis: 1,060 mg of Omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), 900 mg of Omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), or a placebo.

When researchers assessed depression levels at the end of the study, they discovered that those in the high inflammation group who received the EPA saw significant improvement of their symptoms, indicating that the Omega-3 fatty acid commonly found in oily fish may be part of an effective treatment plan for people with both depression and high levels of inflammation.

A Word about Inflammation
Inflammation refers to a wide range of immune functions the body uses to protect itself against illness and disease. When you catch a cold, for example, inflammation levels become elevated as the immune system works to rid the body of this new “bad guy”. It may last a few days to a week, but then it stops; this is how a healthy immune system functions. However, when the immune system is out of balance, inflammation can persist and contribute to a host of chronic conditions, including—as recent evidence has shown—depressive disorders.

By exploring the link between inflammation and depression, scientists hope to find ways to promote healthy inflammation levels as well as support optimal physical and mental health.

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Expectant Moms Not Getting Enough Omega-3s

woman_holding_babyOmega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA provide a variety of health benefits for expectant mothers, including promoting healthy brain and eye development in their babies. The problem, say researchers in Canada, is that women who are pregnant and nursing simply aren’t eating enough of these healthy fats.

Using data from the long-term Alberta Pregnancy Outcomes and Nutrition (APRON) study, scientists from the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary were able to determine recently that less than 30 percent of pregnant women and only a quarter of new mothers are consuming the daily amount of Omega-3s recommended by leading health experts—typically at least 500 mg total Omega-3 fats, including at least 200 mg of DHA.

The ongoing study involves more than 2,000 women and centers on the relationship between maternal nutrition and healthy child development. For this particular research, scientists focused on just under a third of the participants and found that regardless of income, location, and other factors, the majority of women failed to get enough beneficial Omega-3s in their diets. When they did consume the beneficial fats, they came mostly from seafood—salmon in particular.

Interestingly, pregnant and nursing women who reported taking a DHA fish oil supplement were up to 11 percent more likely to meet the daily Omega-3 recommendations. Researchers hope the results of the study, published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, will increase awareness about the benefits of Omega-3s during and after pregnancy.

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