Depression, inflammation and omega 3
Depression is an incredibly common mood disorder, thought to affect as many as 1 in 4 adults in the UK every year. While reports suggest around 1 in 8 men are affected by the condition, many experts believe this number is much higher as men’s mental health issues often go undiagnosed - and this is reflected in men’s suicide rates which are currently around three times higher than in women. Reassuringly, there is an ever-growing body of research showing that the foods we eat can have a real impact on our mood, showing promise in treating and even preventing cases of depression, offering exciting new options for self management of the condition. One particular nutrient that has gained a huge amount of attention in this area is omega 3. Let’s take a look at how omega 3 can support depression and depressive moods…
Omega-3 is an essential polyunsaturated fatty acid; it is called essential because the body cannot produce it so we must eat enough of it in our diet. There are different forms of omega-3, with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) being the active forms that are readily available for the body to use – the best source of DHA and EPA is oily fish. Another form called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) can be obtained from some plant foods, including chia seeds and walnuts. However, ALA isn’t readily available to use and the body doesn’t convert it to DHA and EPA very well, so the preferred food source is oily fish (1).
DHA is the most common fatty acid found in brain tissue and plays a key role in brain development and function; studies have shown time and time again that people with a lower intake of DHA fatty acids have an increased risk of low mood and depression, and those with a higher intake have a reduced risk, demonstrating its importance in mood regulation (2). Low-grade chronic inflammation and oxidative stress has also been implicated in many diseases, including depression. As a natural anti-inflammatory, omega 3 is crucial in reducing inflammation and as such, supplementation has been shown to be supportive in the treatment of the condition (3).
Omega 3 can also support our mood because it helps our brains to adapt; the technical term for this is brain plasticity, which simply means how well our brains can adapt and change based on our experiences. Depression has been shown to interrupt this process, but there is evidence that omega 3 can promote brain plasticity and this is thought to be protective against depression. Finally, our gut has a big influence on our mood, through regulation of the gut/brain axis; omega 3 is a vital nutrient for the health of our gut and therefore the health of our brain (4).
As oily fish is such a rich source of high-quality omega 3, you should try to consume 1-2 portions a week if possible. However, this can be challenging for many people who simply do not like the taste. As well as choosing other sources of omega 3, such as chia seeds, walnuts and rapeseed oil, you may also wish to add in a high-quality omega 3 supplement to ensure that your brain is getting all it needs to not only function, but to thrive.
DEFLAME is a plant-based liquid supplement containing omega-3, curcumin, ginger and frankincense designed to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. To read more about DEFLAME, click here.
Baker, E.J. et al. 2016. Progress in Lipid Research; 64:30-56. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.plipres.2016.07.002
Grosso, G. et al. 2016. Journal of Affective Disorders; 205:269-281. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2016.08.011
Grosso, G. et al. 2014. PLoS One; 9 (5):e96905. doi: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0096905
DiNicolantonio, J.J. et al. 2020. Nutrients; 12 (8):2333. doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12082333