(Natural News) Fish oil supplements are among the most popular dietary supplements, mainly for their ability to lower the risk of heart disease, thanks to the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil. However, it’s not just the heart that benefits from taking fish oils — these fatty acids are also beneficial for maintaining healthy brain function and keeping the effects of depression and anxiety at bay.
Studies have shown that for the brain to function at its best, it needs omega-3 fatty acids — the kind found in fish oil. However, a lot of diets and even some “health foods” don’t have enough omega-3s for the brain to use. This, in turn, leads to omega-3 deficiency, one of the underlying causes of depression and mood disorders over the past 50 years. This makes the supplements particularly helpful for people suffering from depression, anxiety, and other types of mood disorders.
In particular, the brain needs omega-3 fatty acids as a structural component for its cell membranes and nerve cells. If the body doesn’t have enough omega-3s, the brain will use other types of fat to create inferior cells which can be prone to anxiety and other mental illnesses. Research has also linked omega-3 fatty acids to improved brain function in all aspects, such as mood, cognition, memory, and general mental well-being. A review of studies has also concluded that omega-3s contain antidepressant properties.
A clinical trial revealed that taking omega-3 supplements (like fish oil supplements) can effectively improve symptoms of depression. In the trial, participants no longer met the criteria for being depressed after taking the supplements for three weeks. Other studies have shown that fish oil increases the volume of the areas of the brain that govern mood and depression. It also increases neurotransmitter levels related to depression, in particular, serotonin and dopamine.
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Those already taking antidepressant medication such as SSRIs can still benefit from fish oil supplements. A study in Biological Psychiatry published in 2013 found that those who eat fatty fish at least once a week are more likely to respond to drug therapy for depression than those who did not eat fatty fish. (Related: Fish oil helps teenage boys fight depression.)
Unfortunately, a lot of the things that people eat these days do not have enough omega-3s, and some even contain omega-6 fatty acids. While omega-3s are known to reduce inflammation, which is a risk factor for degenerative disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, omega-6 fats promote inflammation and should not be consumed in excess. However, an average diet of a person in the U.S. contains over 20 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s — most of it found in vegetable oils like canola.
Wild-caught, cold-water oily fish are the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These include herring, salmon, mackerel, halibut, and sardines. Other dietary sources include wild game, grass-fed beef, and free-range chicken.
While there is no recommended daily allowance (RDA) for taking fish oil, experts suggest between 500 to 1,000 milligrams of omega-3s per day for overall health. A study by the National Institutes of Health concluded that a person should get a minimum of 220 mg of both types of omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA.
It’s also worth noting that the antidepressant effects of fish oil could take anywhere from four to 12 weeks before its effects become noticeable.
Learn about other ways to naturally beat depression at Mind.news.