Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Foods to Boost Your Mood

Some food is on your side! Yahoo! And not just carrots and raw veggies.
I found the following “Psychology Today” article through Revolution Health. It shows the effectiveness of omega-2 fatty acids against depression. My doctor actually told me this a year and a half ago, at which time I ordered cartons of omega-3 capsules. I take six a day, and I really do think they’ve helped my mood.

We’ve known for a few years that people who eat a diet rich in fish are less likely to be depressed. But new research shows that one nutrient in fish might actually be more effective against depression than traditional antidepressants. The nutrient is an omega-3 fatty acid called EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
British scientists gave a group of patients with stubborn depression a daily dose of EPA. After three months, over two thirds of the group reported a 50% reduction in their symptoms–particularly feelings of sadness and pessimism, inability to work, sleeplessness and low libido. All of the patients had previously tried other medications, including Prozac, other SSRIs and tricyclic antidepressants, the researchers reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
“This is one of the largest potential associations of a nutrient with depression,” says Joseph Hibbeln, M.D., a psychiatrist at the National Institutes of Health who has pioneered research into the diet-depression link. “The important issue in this study is that the omega-3 worked above and beyond the antidepressants.”
Healthy brains and nerve cells depend on omega-3s because the nervous system is made mostly of fat. The signals that travel through our flesh–feelings, thoughts, commands to our bodies–skip along cells and their arms sheathed in fat.


But not just any fat. Omega-3 essential fatty acids are one of the basic building blocks of the brain. Brain cell membranes are about 20 percent fatty acids and they seem to be crucial for keeping brain signals moving smoothly. Doctors call this class of fat “essential” because, unlike many nutrients, our bodies cannot produce it. We can get it only from very specific parts of our diets.
Found in seafood, also in walnuts, leafy greens and flaxseed, omega-3s are polyunsaturated fats that also protect against cancer and promote cardiovascular health. They may explain why heart disease and depression often occur together.
A growing body of research suggests that seafood can ward off other mental disorders. Countries with diets rich in fish have lower rates of depression, bipolar disorder, postpartum depression and suicide. The complete story of these fats is yet to be told. Scientists haven’t nailed down how they interact in the brain with each other, other nutrients and even medications.
The fatty acids in cell membranes need constant replenishment by diet, which seems to be where some complications set in. The omega-3s exist in a delicate balance with another group of needed fats, omega-6s. The trouble is, most Americans are consuming too much of the omega-6s, and they’re crowding out the omega-3s. The omega-6s are found in many vegetable oils, such as corn and soy, that permeate processed foods.
Hibbeln says the overabundance of omega-6s in our diet is one of the most critical issues facing U.S. public health. Over the last century, our consumption of soybean oil has increased a thousand-fold, so that each of us now eats about 25 pounds of the stuff a year.
“There’s good data that this soybean oil has literally been flooding our bodies and brains,” Hibbeln says. He believes that many health problems, including the steep rise in depression, might be due to this radical change in our diet.
So next time you are in the grocery store, take a look at the ingredients on boxes of crackers and cookies and even jars of peanut butter. Most likely they are packed with soybean, cottonseed or corn oil. You might be doing your brain a favor by feeding it a walnut or a sardine instead.
It’s too early for prescribing fish as a sure-fire treatment for depression, but Hibbeln says it’s a good idea to have some in your diet. Whether fresh or salt-water, all fish contain omega-3s, which originate in the algae and seaweed they eat.

  • Wisdum

    I concur, wholeheartedly with this post! The only problem I have is the typical game the med profession plays with all our ignorance. You can check out EPA (an omega 3 fatty acid)at Wikepedia
    You know what, cod liver oil, absolutely works ! My mother gave me a teaspoon of that crap, when I was a kid…and I wasn’t sick for 30 years after that !
    LUV 2 ALL

  • Jim G

    Great article Therese. It is worth a try. I do eat canned fish a few times a week (tuna fish sandwich.)
    Beware fish that is farm grown. I have read that fish farmers feed their fish grains. Which is not normal of course. And since it is not normal, the fish fed with grains do not have the Omega 3.
    So if it says wild then it is healthy fish.
    Speaking of health – beware fake sugars and other junk food addictives such as glutamates.
    And if you are skeptical and wonder why that would be the case – just look at two of the brain chemicals’ names: glutamate and aspartate . Hmmm, what’s wrong with this picture?

  • Frank

    Well, this is interesting!! I really, really liked the idea of taking something that is ‘natural’ and healthy and contributes to a positive impact (diminishing the depression). I’m not sure that what I read makes it a wonder drug but hey, what the heck! It’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Coincidentally, I had just purchased a bottle of Omega-3 and some flaxseed to add to some baking. I’ve lost 10 pounds in the past four weeks – a dietary effort to whittle away some of the excess LB’s. Interesting…my attitude seems to benefit from the weight loss.
    Oh, it would be nice to be able to start and end the day without any medication. But I know that’s not practical or feasible. But it sure does sound nice. Healing – what a concept.

  • Blanche

    Therese, your post completely hit the spot. I ate “smoke fish” a lot as a kid, and still do when I can find it. I also love sardines; Walgreens has them 4 cans for $3. Even better when they’re on sale.
    I’ve also been eating a lot more leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprouts. Between that, and my meds (I’m sorry but I don’t believe eating alone is a “fix” for depression), I’m actually doing better. So I believe eating well is an added bonus.

  • Lyn

    This is a most interesting bit of information! I just recently started taking Omega 3’s so it’s nice to know there are some other good benefits to taking them. I too think that both food and medication in combination may work better for some people, myself being one of those people.
    Thanks for this important update Therese. I always look forward to checking out this great site each day.

  • Lori

    I am fortunate to live in Alaska, near the coast and the beautiful Kenai River. We eat Halibut a few times a week, it is a staple. We spend a lot of our Summer weekends pulling in those 100 lb lunkers. Its great food and fun. Smoked Salmon of course isnt as good for you, and thats how I like it, salmon is a dime a dozen up here, and often dog food to clean out the freezer to make room for the good stuff. Salmon is so good for you though. Before the whites showed up, there was no heart disease up north where they lived on seals, fish and whale.
    But depression with the Yupik and Inupiat is huge along with suicide sorry to say, though their diets have changed with less subsistence and the intro of shipping and foodstamps. I think the biggest reason is the loss of culture, or trying to live two cultures.
    Anyway, I am glad to hear the fish-depression connection, I hope it replaces my antidepressant. I will work on it.

  • Rev. Tracie Voss

    In 1999, the Harvard study about Omega-3 for Depression and Bipolar Disorder was published. I’ve been taking it as fish-oil caps ever since. While I won’t say it’s a substitute for the psych meds and mood-stabilizers, it certainly helps them work better.
    One tip from experience: if there’s an Asian grocery in your neighborhood, it’s cheaper to buy them there, and much, much cheaper than buying them at the health-food store!!
    3 in the morning and three at night along with my other medication seems to do the trick. Having food with them (even if it’s just my morning cup of green tea) seems to help cut the “fishy aftertaste”. However, science has found a way around that, too, and now produces capsules that claim to have “no fishy aftertaste.”
    For more about the science behind this, please visit:

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