Fish May Deter Depression in Women

Risk of depression appears one-quarter lower in women who eat fish at least twice a week

Eight years ago, the American Psychiatric Association concluded that diets high in omega-3 fats help deter depression. Their expert panel found that people who eat more seafood-source omega-3s (EPA and DHA) than average enjoy reduced risks of mood problems … see “Top Psych Panel Says Omega-3s Deter Depression, Bipolar Disorder”. And evidence supporting their stance has only grown over the past decade and more … see theOmega-3s & Brain Health section of our news archive.

Now, an Australian study finds that eating fish at least twice a week dramatically reduces women’s risk of depression. As seen in some – but not all – prior studies, seafood-rich diets didn’t appear to offer men the same mood-health protection.

Aussie study finds fish fighting in women
Scientists based at Tasmania’s Menzies Research Institute tracked 1,386 men and women aged 26 to 36 for five years (Smith KJ et al. 2014). At the outset, they asked the participants to detail their daily diets, and each person underwent a periodic phone survey designed to determine mood health.

The Tasmanian team compared the volunteers’ self-reported diets to their self-reported mood status, and arrived at several findings:

• Men showed no link between fish consumption and risk of depression.
• Women who reported eating fish two or more times a week were 25 percent less likely to exhibit signs of depression, compared with those who ate fish less than twice a week.
• Among women, each additional weekly serving of fish reduced the risk of a new depression episode by six percent.
As the researchers wrote, “These findings provide further evidence that fish consumption may be beneficial for women’s mental health.” (Smith KJ et al. 2014)

The study authors speculate that high blood levels omega-3 fatty acids may help the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone keep the brain functioning properly.

In addition, animal research shows that omega-3s foster growth of cells in the brain’s hippocampus region and promote connections between those cells … an effect associated with reduced depression risk and symptom severity (Venna VR et al. 2008).

And NIH psychiatrist Joe Hibbeln, M.D., found that people with higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids have more serotonin and dopamine – two key mood-related neurotransmitters – in their spinal fluid (Hibbeln JR et al. 1998).

Given the weight of evidence that seafood supports mood, heart, and metabolic health, regular enjoyment of fish and shellfish is a proverbial no-brainer.

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