Can eating considerable amounts of fatty fish help protect you from depression? When you look at the facts, the picture becomes clearer. And it’s pretty good news.
There is a 60-fold variation across countries in terms of the prevalence of depressive disorders very similar to the cross-national differences in coronary artery disease, suggesting that similar dietary risk factors might be involved. Countries with high fish intake include Japan, Korea, and Norway (approximately 1,000 milligrams a day); whereas a country like Australia has a low intake of only 15 mg a day. In the U.S., intake of omega-3 fatty acid varies from 70 mg a day to 580 mg a day.
Within the last decade, there have been several large population studies showing that countries with a high dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids appear to have a lower prevalence of coronary heart disease, major depression, stroke, and overall death rates. Here are four of the key studies in this vein:
1. In a study from multiple countries involving 35,000 healthy individuals, higher intake of fish was associated with a lower rate of depression.
2. In a study from Finland involving 3,204 individuals aged 25 to 64 years, low fish intake was associated with depressive symptoms.
3. In another study from Finland involving 5,689 individuals with average age of 31 years old, the rate of depression in women (not in men) was higher in those who rarely ate fish.
4. One study showed that a higher intake of seafood led to an improvement in the part of brain involved with moods, such as depression.
(Still, there are studies that did not support the claim that higher intake of fish leads to a lower depression rate.)
But it would seem that those who ensure they get plenty of fatty fish in their diets are less prone to depression.