Japanese researchers have discovered yet another benefit to fish oil — treatment for depression. According to a study out of the University of Tokyo, teenage boys who eat a lot of oily fish have a 27 percent reduced risk of depression compared to those who eat little oily fish.
Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA offer numerous benefits to both body and brain health, and the new study indicates that these oils may also play a valuable role in preventing and treating depression.
Kentaro Murakami and his colleagues analyzed 6,500 Japanese junior high students between the ages of 12 and 15. Nearly a quarter of boys had initial symptoms of depression and about a third of girls had symptoms. After considering various life factors and dietary practices, the team discovered that the less oily fish boys ate, the more likely they were to have depression symptoms. They did not observe the same benefit in girls.
However several other studies have indicated that fish oil plays an important role in the mental health of both sexes, including a 1999 study in the Archives of General Psychiatry which found that manic-depressive patients who supplement with fish oil experience overall improvements in mental health.
“Fish oil…appears to be very good stuff for the brain and behavior, which makes sense because omega-3 fatty acids have a critical role in brain development and functioning, including promoting the growth of neurons in the frontal cortex. Fish oil has been shown in a series of studies by Andrew Stoll at Harvard to ease the symptoms of bipolar disorder and depression,” explains Charles Barber in his book Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Is Medicating a Nation.