Sitting firmly at the peak of both the healing foods and natural supplements categories is fish oil. Here’s a fun new take on everyone’s favorite healthy fat: the more fish oil you take in, the more you may lower inflammation and anxiety.
In fact, the study in question focused on younger individuals, meaning that older adults — and those at high risk of disease — could benefit even more. Past research shows that omega-3 fats could help reduce the levels of inflammation-causing “cytokines” in the body, as well as limiting the effects of depression.
Psychological stress has been shown to increase cytokine production, so the new study wanted to see if fish oil could mitigate that process. To test the theory, they tested 68 medical students. Half received omega-3 supplements and the other half got placebo pills. The level of fish oil was about four to five times the amount that you would get from a serving of salmon.
The psychological surveys clearly showed an important change in anxiety among the students. Those receiving the omega-3 fatty acids showed a 20% reduction in anxiety compared to the placebo group. An analysis of the blood samples from the medical students showed similar important results.
They measured cytokines in the blood, as well as the productivity of cells that produced two critical cytokines. This would yield a well-rounded look at the influence of inflammation on the body. They found a 14% drop in the amount of one of those inflammation-triggering cells in those who were taking the fish oil. Since cytokines foster inflammation, anything we do to reduce cytokines is a big plus. Too much inflammation is a hallmark of a wide variety of diseases — including cancer, arthritis and heart disease.
While still a bit early to start recommending fish oil specifically to reduce anxiety and inflammation, this remains another positive study on the subject. Boosting fish and getting a good degree of omega-3 fats in your regular diet is a decision that will only improve your health.