Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Consuming Omega-3 Fatty Acids Found to Reduce Aggression

Tell me how much omega-3 fatty acids you consume, and I'll tell you your mood.

Key points

  • Nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids play a significant role in brain function and mood.
  • A deficiency of these fatty acids may lead to anger.
  • Individuals who live in a specific location and follow a certain dietary pattern may have specific mood.

Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are. –Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Modern dominant theories in neuroscience suggest that our choices are determined by geographical, historical, and genetic determinism. Neuroscientists and philosophers believe that multiple factors, including age-related changes, injuries, dietary problems, substance abuse, and diseases influence mental states. These factors are finally reflected in neural circuits that regulate our seemingly conscious decisions and determine the brain's ultimate response. However, many scientists believe that modifiable lifestyle factors like diet, physical activity, social engagement, and cognitive activity can impact mental health.

Food plays a significant role in mental health by providing energy, precursors of neurotransmitters, and compounds necessary for brain metabolism. The dietary pattern is defined as the proportion, quantity, and composition of nutrients in foods and drinks. Dietary patterns are determined by culture, geographical location, and economic, political, and educational status. For example, people living near the sea tend to consume more seafood, while individuals in India may consume less beef.

Food is often ignored as an important influencing factor on the mind and mood

Our moods and feelings are influenced by several factors, with diet and food being significant contributors. Nutrition plays a crucial role in brain development during early life, and specific nutrients like protein, iron, copper, zinc, iodine, folate, and certain fats are essential for mental health throughout life. A high-fat diet negatively affects cognition, while low-fat diets may protect against cognitive decline. Micronutrients, especially B vitamins and iron, are crucial for cognitive health. Several dietary patterns, including Mediterranean, Nordic, DASH, and MIND diets, have been linked to a lower risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

The gut microbiome plays a significant role in brain health through the gut-brain axis. Nutrition also influences the composition and type of microbes resident in the gut. Prebiotics, such as dietary fibers, are compounds found in foods that can positively impact beneficial gut microbes, thus promoting cognitive function. Some types of these microbes produce chemical compounds like butyrate and neurotransmitters such as serotonin that directly influence brain functions and mental health. However, the interactions between the gut microbiome and the brain are complex and multifaceted. Further research is required to shed light on the interaction of nutrition, the microbiome, mental health, and cognition.1

Omega-3 fatty acids impact mood and emotions

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of dietary fatty acids with specific double bonds in their structure. These types of fatty acids have important physiological effects in humans. The human body cannot efficiently produce them from other fatty acids, so they must be obtained through foods and supplements. They include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) as a plant type, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) as animal type. In addition to fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies that often inhabit cold seawater, walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seeds are rich plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial components of cell membranes, influencing membrane fluidity and the function of membrane-bound enzymes and receptors. They also produce chemical molecules that regulate inflammation, blood clotting, and the contraction and relaxation of artery walls.

Inflammation is a physiological response to infections and tissue damage. The first step of inflammation involves releasing inflammatory molecules from inflamed cells and recognizing the inflamed tissue by immune cells. In the second step, immune cells are recruited to the site of inflammation to remove pathogens and dead cells. In the final step, tissue damage is repaired, and the inflammation is stopped.

As mentioned above, one of the most important roles of EPA and DHA is the control of inflammation. Eicosanoids are chemical compounds mostly derived from 20-carbon fatty acids that play a role in the inflammatory response. Eicosanoids derived from arachidonic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) promote inflammation, while those derived from EPA are anti-inflammatory. Moreover, EPA and DHA are mediators of compounds that play a major role in resolving inflammation. Therefore, a lack of these fatty acids in the diet impairs the physiological inflammation process and may lead to chronic inflammation, which is the main underlying cause of most chronic diseases such as heart diseases, neurodegenerative illnesses, diabetes, and cancers.2

Omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function and mood regulation. Omega-3s are important for maintaining healthy brain cell membranes, which are responsible for communication between brain cells. Omega-3s help regulate neurotransmitter levels, which are crucial for mood and emotion regulation. They help regulate neurotransmitter pathways, reduce neuroinflammation, and promote healthy brain development.

Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency leads to anger

A recent article suggests that omega-3 fatty acids can significantly reduce aggressive and violent behavior in individuals. The study analyzed data from 29 independent studies and involved more than 3,900 participants and found that omega-3 supplementation reduced both reactive and proactive aggression. This study suggests that omega-3s may be a promising tool for addressing aggression, particularly when combined with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Omega-3s have been shown to influence serotonin levels, which is linked to mood regulation and aggression. This paper highlights the interesting effect of nutrients on brain functions and mood.3

Environmental, geographical, and genetic factors influence our behaviors and mental states. Dietary patterns also play an important role in determining our mind and mood. Although the food pattern seems under our control and can be changed and improved, economic, geographical, and cultural factors are sometimes so strong that these patterns can hardly be changed depending on the individual's environment. These patterns determine how many nutrients reach the body, and these substances, in turn, affect the health of our body and brain. Sometimes, the psychological actions of societies should be addressed by considering their food patterns. For instance, in communities far from the sea and with low economic status, a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids may influence their emotions, moods, and behaviors.


1. Lachance L, Ramsey D. Food, mood, and brain health: implications for the modern clinician. Mo Med. 2015 Mar–Apr;112(2):111–115

2. Dighriri IM, Alsubaie AM, Hakami FM, Hamithi DM, Alshekh MM, Khobrani FA, Dalak FE, Hakami AA, Alsueaadi EH, Alsaawi LS, Alshammari SF, Alqahtani AS, Alawi IA, Aljuaid AA, Tawhari MQ. Effects of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids on Brain Functions: A Systematic Review. Cureus. 2022 Oct 9;14(10):e30091.

3. Raine A, Brodrick L. Omega-3 supplementation reduces aggressive behavior: A meta-analytic review of randomized controlled trials. Aggress Violent Behav. 2024 Sep–Oct;78:101956.

More from Hamid Zand Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today