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Fish oil and depression: is there a link? Does it work to use fish oil for depression? What about for menopause depression?
Menopause depression often comes about due to the added stress of going through the physical and emotional transition. Other physical issues tend to occur during this time as well, such as low thyroid, hormone imbalance, and lack of sleep. All of these issues can contribute to menopause depression. See depression and menopause for more information about causes and symptoms.
Does using fish oil for depression work?
Countries with high amounts of fish in their diets have less incidents of depression. Some studies have found that people with depression tend to be low in the omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. DHA is especially important for healthy brain function.
Fish oil contains healthy amounts of these two omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in polyunsaturated fats, along with omega 6 fatty acids. These two types of fats are not made by your body, so you must get them from food. Your brain, especially requires these fats in order to function properly.
How Fish Oil helps with Depression
Anyone eating today's modern diet is getting a very unhealthy amount of omega 6 fats in relation to omega 3 fats. In traditional diets these fats were consumed in about a 1-2 ratio (one part omega 3 to two parts omega 6). The ratio now is more like 15 to 1 in favor of omega 6 fats. Omega 6 fats are found in vegetable oils, such as corn, canola, soybean, cottonseed, safflower, and sunflower oils.
Many processed foods contain one or more of these vegetable oils. In addition, many foods that used to contain healthy amounts of omega 3 fats, such as vegetables, eggs, fish and meat have had the omega 3's processed out of them. Omega 3 fatty acids are destroyed in processing, and most processing of food today removes critical nutrients from our food. Omega 3 fatty acids are one example of this. Pastured eggs (eggs from chickens raised on pasture and eating their natural diet of insects, seeds, plant leaves and grubs, NOT soybeans and grains) contain a healthy ratio of omega 3 to 6 fatty acids. Regular commercial eggs may have a ratio of omega 3 to 6 as high as 1 to 19.
Consequences of unhealthy Omega 3 to 6 ratios
Studies have shown reductions in many diseases from increasing the amount of omega 3 fatty acids relative to Omega 6 fatty acids in the diet. Diseases that are positively impacted with increased omega 3's include heart disease, autoimmune diseases, cancer, and inflammatory conditions.
What and How to Buy
There are many brands of fish oil on the market. When buying fish oil for depression, there are a few criteria you need to remember. Cod liver oil is the best type of fish oil to use. Most brands of cod liver oil have removed the natural vitamins A and D, because there is some concern about toxicity from these vitamins in the high levels found in cod liver oil. This is a complicated issue, and one I will not get into here. For a thorough discussion on the benefits of vitamin A and D in cod liver oil, and clarification of the controversy around vitamins A and D, see these articles at The Weston Price Foundation