TAG | anxiety
For the first time since the US government has been collecting data on it, the top five disabilities affecting U.S. children are no longer physical problems, but rather, mental problems, as reported recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Additionally, almost 8 percent of children now have a disability that limits their activity, a four-fold increase since 1960.
One of the suggested reasons for the increase in mental health disorders is the, “exposure to new or more environmental toxins during pregnancy and early childhood.” Improvements in diagnosis were also suggested as a contributor to the increased rate. Although conclusions about what has caused the increase are premature, we will certainly be seeing more research in the coming years.
“In terms of reduced economic outcomes, mental health issues in childhood are a serious problem, way bigger than obesity,” stated James P. Smith, a researcher of child health histories. The report stated that only about half of children with mental health problems get any kind of services, highlighting the gravity of the issue.
Bruce Lanphear, professor of health sciences at Simon Fraser University in Canada, stated that prevention of children’s disabilities in the first place will be more effective than treating them. “Children, who are more vulnerable than adults to adverse effects from environmental toxins are sometimes exposed to numerous chemicals that may be contributing to mental and developmental problems,” stated Lanphear.
The report went on to cite studies linking environmental exposures to mental health in children, including, “the association of black carbon (an airborne byproduct of fossil-fuel combustion) with reduced verbal and nonverbal intelligence and poor memory; of low lead exposure with lower IQ scores; prenatal exposure to tobacco with ADHD; and organophosphate pesticides, mercury, and PCBs with ADHD. Lamphear’s own research found associations between prenatal exposure to bisphenol A and depressive symptoms, anxiety, and hyperactivity in young girls.”
We can no longer deny or turn our backs on the fact that environmental toxins are taking an enormous toll on our health.
Anxiety, or worry, is experienced by just about everyone at some point. Some people have anxiety disorders, which are more serious conditions, but it’s safe to say that most people experience at least occasional anxiety. That’s why a new study on omega-3s found in fish oil is so exciting. It’s the first study to look at the effects of fish oil on anxiety in a healthy population—meaning, in people who don’t already have an anxiety disorder. It’s already known that fish oil can be helpful for those people. But what about people who only experience anxiety here and there?
The researchers took a group of medical students and gave them omega-3 supplements for three months. The supplements contained 2,085 mg of EPA and 348 mg of DHA. Another group got a placebo. After three months, the group taking the fish oil showed a 20 percent reduction in anxiety scores and a 14 percent reduction in the production of the inflammatory marker interleukin-6 (IL-6) over the placebo group.
IL-6 is an inflammatory cytokine. Depression and anxiety are both known to involve the production of inflammatory cytokines. This is one of the gut-brain connections, actually, since the inflammation can originate in the gut. Omega-3s were able to reduce these inflammatory compounds, highlighting just one way they may be helping mood disorders like depression and anxiety.