Certain kinds of fats might help keep you happy
By: Lisa Pacitto

American’s delight in eating fatty foods, but research suggests we might actually be happier if we adopted a Mediterranean diet with lots of fresh fish, fruits and vegetables. Long-term consumption of fish, namely the long-chain omega-3 essential fatty acids (LC-PUFA) found in fish, appears to support metal health.

During an eight-year study conducted in France, subjects who consumed fatty fish had a significantly lesser risk of recurrent depression. A two-year study conducted in Spain reported that even moderate consumption of fish could reduce the risk of mental disorders by more than 30 percent. The link between dietary fish intake and depressed mood Additional lifestyle factors may also play a role in affecting depression and mood, however studies do support the findings that fish and produce in one’s diet can help reduce the incidence of depression.

According to Baldur Hjaltason from EPAX AS, a Norwegian company that leads the world in the production of highly-concentrated marine-based omega-3 oils, the good news about fish is getting out to consumers. Hjaltason noted that during 2006 and 2007 in the US there was an increase of 5 percent in awareness of the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in brain health. “This is very positive since a dietary survey of nine countries clearly demonstrated higher prevalence of mental depression in populations not eating fish, linking onset of depression to changes in our diet,” he said.  

Intervention trials with two types of LC-PUFAs, specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have shown positive results. Analysis of 10 double blind, placebo-controlled studies in patients with mood disorders concluded that LC-PUFAs have significant anti-depressant activity, although more work on dosages needs to be done. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study of omega-3 fatty-acid supplementation showed that proving LC-PUFAs to patients suffering from Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease may reduce the incidence of depression, often without the use of pharmaceutical antidepressants.

As why LC-PUFAs seem to affect mood they way they do, researchers from La Troube University, Bundoora, Australia, noted that one of the primary mechanisms of LC-PUFAs is their ability to reduce pro-inflammatory prostaglandins which are linked to altered blood flow to the brain. Taiwanese researchers noted that LC-PUFAs, specifically DHA and EPA, support optimal cell membrane function and inflammatory response. Deficits of these essential acids (which are not made by the body and must be consumed) are linked to dysfunctions in neurotransmitter function, suggesting an inherent link between body and mind health.