Eating fish regularly is associated with improved heart health and a reduced risk of heart-related problems. That's why medical experts recommend that most people should eat fish - which is high in omega-3 fatty acids - twice per week. But while the cardiovascular benefit of increasing omega-3 intake are well recognized, relatively little is known of the potential mental health effects.
Now, in a new study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, researchers say that omega-3 may influence mood, personality and behavior. The results, presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society, suggest that people with lower blood levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids were more likely to report mild or moderate symptoms of depression, a more negative outlook and be more impulsive.
The study was conducted by analyzing levels of omega-3 fatty acids in participants' blood and comparing that data to the participants' scores on three tests for depression, impulsiveness and personality. The amount of omega-3 circulating in blood reflects the dietary intake of the fatty acid. Throughout the study, the participants continued with their normal dietary habits.
Researcher Sarah Conklin explained that while previous studies have linked low levels of omega-3 to clinically significant conditions such as major depressive disorder, schizophrenia and attention deficit disorder, this was the first study to recognize these that these relationships also occur in healthy adults. "This study opens the door for future research looking at what effect increasing omega-3 intake, whether by eating omega-3 rich foods like salmon, or taking fish-oil supplements, has on people's mood," she added.
Source: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center