Researchers have been looking for a link between the symptoms of low moods and omega-3s for decades, and according to a recent large-scale Japanese study, the long-chain fatty acids may help brush away the blues.
The findings of Japanese researchers appeared in the British Journal of Medicine, and found that supplementing with omega-3s – not the more prevalent omega-6s - was beneficial in supporting against low moods, even in nations where omega-3 levels were already higher because the population ate more fish. (Ref. 1)
It’s not the first time researchers have found that omega-3s may offer as many benefits to improve one’s mood.
In 1996, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study that compared depression rates in various nations, determining that those who lived in countries that consumed more fish had lower rates of depression. (Ref. 2)
A 1999 Harvard University follow-up that appeared in the Archives of General Psychiatry backed the findings.
“There are a lot of reasons to believe it works,” Dr. Andrew Stoll told WebMD.com. “In countries where the average fish consumption is high we see lower rates of depression.” (Ref. 3)
The study from Japan took the theory one step further and looked at whether omega-3 supplements were also helpful to those who are already eating more fish.
Researchers studied more than 2,000 Japanese participants, and found that those with higher blood serum levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids after a 12-hour fasting period were less likely to experience symptoms of low moods.
An estimated 5 percent of the global population is expected to deal with at least one bout of depression in their lifetime, according to the World Health Organization. (Ref. 1)
Symptoms of depression include a persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest in things that previously were seen as enjoyable, difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, a decrease in energy and the inability to effectively concentrate at work or at home. (Ref. 4)
The theory behind omega-3s and mood
One theory behind the link between a happier mood and omega-3s involves the membranes of our bodies’ cells, which are made partially of omega-3s.
When omega-3 levels are boosted, experts believe that it is easier for serotonin – a neurotransmitter linked to mood, libido, appetite, sleep and more – to pass through the membranes of our 40 million brain cells and do a more effective job of reaching the brain cells that are related to mood.
“Research still needs to be done on the exact mechanisms involved,” said Stoll, adding that current findings make it clear that boosting levels of omega-3 fatty acids directly impacts serotonin levels. (Ref. 3)
Without omega-3s, we’ve got the blues
According to Dr. Joseph Hibbeln, a psychiatrist at the National Institute of Health who has studied the benefits of omega-3s for more than two decades, the American diet is lacking when it comes to taking in enough omega-3s, which could explain the rise in mood disorders in the U.S.
In 2014, more than 15 million adults in the United States suffered from at least one episode of low moods, and Hibbeln believes that diet – often lacking in fish as well as red meat and eggs, which are also good sources of omega-3s – might be part of the cause as well as the solution.
The Japanese are already well ahead in terms of fish consumption and omega-3s, said Hibbeln. On average, a Japanese adult eats about 145 pounds of fish annually, compared to Americans, who eat a measly 42 pounds a year, and instead take in far more omega-6 fatty acids (found in soybean oil, a key ingredient in processed foods) than recommended.
Hibbeln says that the disparity between the two countries could explain why American rates of depression are about 30 times higher than rates in Japan. (Ref. 5)
“An imbalance between omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids in the western diet is a modern nutritional disaster,” Hibbeln said, linking the imbalance to not only depression but also dyslexia, hyperactivity disorder and other mental health concerns.
Hibbeln recommends 3.5 grams of EPA and DHA – the two most important omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil – each day to benefit a wide range of health issues including mood. (Ref. 6)
Supplements can help boost the numbers
Our Xtend-Life Omega 3 DHA, Omega 3 DHA Premium and Omega 3 QH/Ultra fish oils each contain 600 milligrams of DHA and 260 milligrams of EPA in just 2 soft gels, which puts you well on your way to getting the recommended amount of omega-3s to experience the health benefits. (Ref. 7)
To ensure that you’re getting enough omega-3s, in addition to taking a good-quality supplement – our Xtend-Life products are produced using Hoki fish harvested from the pristine waters off the coast of New Zealand and exceptionally pure Tuna oil – consider adding the following foods to your diet, according to World’s Healthiest Foods:
- Flax seed
- English walnuts
- Brussels Sprouts
- Cauliflower (Ref. 8)
Why consider fish oil?
For those who experience low moods, prescription drugs come with a slew of side effects, including sexual dysfunction, weight gain, bloating, constipation, insomnia and dry mouth.
Fish oil, however, has none of these, and can also improve energy levels, support healthy skin, hair and nails and also help support heart health at the same time, making it a win-win while helping support low moods.