Fish: Food for Your Mood

DEPRESSION

Fish have long been called "brain food," but they might also be called "mood food": A study shows that consuming fish oil may reduce the symptoms of manic depression.

It's well-accepted that oily fish like salmon and mackerel are packed with fats called omega-3 fatty acids that can reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis, as well as inflammatory diseases like arthritis. But less well-known are the benefits of omega-3s on mood disorders like depression.

Andrew Stoll, M.D., and a team of researchers conducted a study to determine whether patients with bipolar or manic depression would see their blues disappear after adding omega-3 fatty acids to their normal course of antidepressants. The team gave seven capsules of fish oil concentrate or an olive oil placebo twice daily to 30 volunteers and monitored them over a four-month period.

Stoll, a physician at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., found that the group of patients consuming fish oil pills in addition to their normal medication ultimately showed fewer symptoms than patients taking only their regular drug therapy. Furthermore, of eight patients in the study taking no antidepressants at all, the four who were given the omega-3 treatment remained depression-free for longer than patients taking a placebo pill.

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While researchers remain unsure of how omega-3 fatty acids help to alleviate manic depression's highs and lows -- though they suspect it involves the substance incorporating itself into nervous tissue -- they do know that their finding may herald a new class of low-cost, natural mood-stabilbilizing drugs.

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