Omega 3 Depression:
Versus Depression and Inflammation
3s Gain Medical Ground
fall 2004, one superstar drug after another fell from its pedestal,
the victims of exaggerated claims and unforeseen side effects.
was the first to fall, followed quickly by Celebrex. New information showed that
each of these COX-2 anti-inflammatory pain relievers appear to pose
greater health risks than the far cheaper generic pain relieversaspirin,
ibuprofen, etc.they were supposed to improve on. Even the primary reason
for their introductionreduced risk of gastric bleeding in comparison with
aspirin and ibuprofenhas since proven false.
the ubiquitous anti-depressant drug Prozac has taken an image hit. First came
evidence that Prozac may cause violent and suicidal behavior. In October of 2004,
the FDA ordered drug companies to place "black box" warnings on the
labels of the most widely prescribed class of antidepressantsserotonin reuptake
inhibitors or SRRIsincluding Prozac, stating that antidepressants increase
the risk of "suicidal thinking and behavior in children and adolescents."
Then, an article
in the January 1 issue of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) alleged that Prozac
patent holder Eli Lilly & Company had long concealed evidence of this problem.
British medical regulators were especially upset over the alleged concealment
by Lilly, since they had recommended that many antidepressants not be prescribed
for children and teenagers, but had not included Prozac in those advisories.
news reports, some of the documents cited by the BMJ article date back to the
1980's and include memos between Eli Lilly employees that show a link between
Prozac and violent or suicidal behavior among people taking the drug.
vital to mood control
omega-3 fatty acid known as DHA is a major component of cell membranes in the
brain, and dietary DHA has been found to improve the symptoms of bipolar disorder,
schizophrenia, and depression. A growing body of evidence indicates that omega-3
fatty acidsespecially DHAoffer a promising dietary defense against
depression. (DHA is found only in seafood, and is concentrated in fatty, cold
water fish like salmon, sablefish, and tuna.)
over the past few years yielded these highly suggestive findings:
- People suffering
from major depression generally have lower-than-average body levels of omega-3s
alleviate major depression, according to the results of the first placebo-controlled
clinical trial, published in 2003. As the authors concluded, From the preliminary
findings in this study, omega-3 PUFAs could improve the short-term course of illness
and were well tolerated in patients with major depressive disorder.
in geographic areas where consumption of DHA is high enjoy decreased rates of
depression, according to most studies. (A recent population study in Finland found
who typically have below-average tissue levels of DHAsuch as alcoholics,
and women in the postpartum periodsuffer higher than average rates of depression.
This is not
to say that people diagnosed with depression can safely toss their prescriptions
in favor of eating lots of fish: researchers say that controlled clinical trials
comparing DHA against standard antidepressants are required before doctors can
prescribe DHA as an effective and safe alternative therapy for depression and
related mood disorders, such as anxiety.
said, increased DHA intake is certainly a safe preventive measure. As researchers
at Harvard Medical School noted in a year 2000 review article, Considering
that natural medications generally seem best for treating mild to moderate illness,
the role of DHA as a therapy for minor and subsyndromal depression also should
seen as anti-arthritis ally
affects an estimated 21 million Americans, most of them over the age of 45. This
most common type of arthritis is caused by gradual degradation of the cartilage
in peoples knees, hips, backs, and ankle joints. Loss of cartilage results
in two sources of pain: 1) rubbing of bone against bone, and 2) indirect pain
from the inflammatory response the body mounts in response to injury of tissues
surrounding the joint. (Cartilage itself has no nerve endings.)
modes of action remain a bit of a mystery, aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen
(Aleve), Vioxx and Celebrex provide effective relief from osteoarthritis pain,
primarily through their anti-inflammatory actions. (Vioxx was withdrawn from sale
last fall following reports of its risks to heart health.)
also dampen inflammation, but not strongly enough to provide the kind of pain
relief people get from taking pharmaceutical drugs.
dietary omega-3s exert physiological effects that can help slow the progress of
osteoarthritis, and limit related pain and immobility. Test tube studies involving
cartilage cells (chondrocytes) show that omega-3s decrease the cartilage degradation
and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis. As the authors of one study put
our data provide evidence supporting dietary supplementation
of n-3 PUFA [omega-3s], which in turn may have a beneficial effect of slowing
and reducing inflammation in the pathogenesis of degenerative joint diseases in
about the far less common, far more debilitating disease known as rheumatoid arthritis
(RA)? This highly painful condition is caused by a mysterious malfunction of the
immune system that causes the body to mount an inflammatory attack its own joint
tissues. Since omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, its no surprise that most
clinical studies show that people with rheumatoid arthritis report substantial
relief from dietary omega-3s.
for a purely non-medical reason, omega-3s remain an under-prescribed therapy for
either form of arthritis. As the authors of a recent research paper explained,
Since fish oils do not provide industry with the opportunities for substantial
profit associated with patented prescription items, they have not received the
marketing inputs that underpin the adoption of usual pharmacotherapies.
In other words, drug companies cant make money selling natural products
like omega-3s, because they cannot be patented and, compared with novel drugs,
offer little profit potential.
but not least, one huge advantage of fish oil over nearly every pharmacological
solution is its safety. Only a fishy aftertaste (repeat) occurs with
some brands, which is completely harmless and usually passes quicklya very
small price to pay for fish oils manifold, well-proven benefits.
consider organic whole foods from both plant and animal kingdoms
to be a major key to superior health. We also think it's terribly
important to eat fish at least twice a week to get the essential
fatty acids. Here at our house, we only eat wild Alaskan salmon
and other wild seafoods from our friends at Vital Choice. Click
here to visit Vital Choice Seafood.
- Mischoulon D,
Fava M. Docosahexanoic acid and omega-3 fatty acids in depression. Psychiatr Clin
North Am. 2000 Dec;23(4):785-94. Review.
KP, Huang SY, Chiu CC, Shen WW. Omega-3 fatty acids in major depressive disorder.
A preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol.
A, Reggers J, Castronovo V, Ansseau M. [Lipids, depression and suicide] Encephale.
2003 Jan-Feb;29(1):49-58. Review. French.
JR. Seafood consumption, the DHA content of mothers' milk and prevalence rates
of postpartum depression: a cross-national, ecological analysis. J Affect Disord.
R, Partonen T, Haukka J, Virtamo J, Albanes D, Lonnqvist J. Is low dietary intake
of omega-3 fatty acids associated with depression? Am J Psychiatry. 2004 Mar;161(3):567-9.
CL, Rees SG, Cramp J, Flannery CR, Hughes CE, Little CB, Williams R, Wilson C,
Dent CM, Harwood JL, Caterson B. Effects of n-3 fatty acids on cartilage metabolism.
Proc Nutr Soc. 2002 Aug;61(3):381-9.
O. Dietary fatty acids and immune reactions in synovial tissue. Eur J Med Res.
2003 Aug 20;8(8):381-7. Review.
MJ, Proudman SM, Cleland LG. Dietary n-3 fats as adjunctive therapy in a prototypic
inflammatory disease: issues and obstacles for use in rheumatoid arthritis. Prostaglandins
Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2003 Jun;68(6):399-405. Review.
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