Women whose diets contain dramatically more of one kind of polyunsaturated fatty acid than another may be at greater risk for both clinical depression and certain inflammatory diseases, suggests a study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.
The fatty acids in question are omega-6 and omega-3, and the researchers, from Ohio State University, say that the typical American diet contains 20 times more omega-6 than omega-3. Getting a better ratio is critical to good health, they explain, and the ratio should be lowered to around 4-to-1, or even 2-to-1.
The study, carried out with middle-aged men and women, showed that those who had higher levels of omega-6 - compared to omega-3 - fatty acids, and who also were reporting more symptoms of depression, had much higher levels two cytokines which enhance inflammation. "The data suggest that higher depression and a poorer diet in terms of omega-3 can work together to promote inflammation. Other researchers have shown that clinically depressed people - those with more severe depression - often have lower omega-3 levels in their blood, and several studies have shown that supplementing diets with omega-3 improves depression," researcher Jan Kiecolt-Glaser explained.
In recent years, research has shown that an increase in omega-3 fatty acids in the diet has specific health benefits, especially in patients with depression, cardiovascular disease and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. "It now appears that diet is a very important variable in the equation as to how people respond to depression and stress," Kiecolt-Glaser added.
Co-researcher Martha Belury said that the important message for consumers was that they don't have to take mega-doses of omega-3 to have some impact. "It might not take a whole lot to have a significant clinical impact," Belury said. The researchers are now starting a larger, more comprehensive randomized and controlled trial of omega-3 in adults between the ages of 50 and 80 in hopes of testing the questions raised in this pilot study.
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Source: Ohio State University