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30 March 2007
Study Looks At Omega-3's Role In Depression, Disease

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.

Related articles:
Omega-3 Affects Mood, Outlook
Depression May Be Linked To Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Seafood Risks Overstated, Say Researchers

Source: Ohio State University

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