Depression affects almost every American at some point in their lives in various forms and degrees. Most of the time, it’s easily treatable, but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes, depression is so severe it requires long-term treatment, usually with pharmaceutical prescriptions. One of the major problems with this form of treatment is that it can be ineffective, with up to half of the people who take it reporting no benefit. So basically, it doesn’t work.
People with major depressive disorder (MDD) are typically treated with something called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), but they only work half of the time. This means patients, possibly you, are walking around feeling depressed all the time and unable to do much about it.
However, new research is showing including fish in your diet can greatly improve the effectiveness of SSRIs in people who typically get no response from them. It’s quite possible that the metabolism of fatty acids helps regulate stress hormones and can therefore improve the effectiveness of existing medication.
A team of researchers noticed that depressed individuals were impacted by how stress hormones allowed them to metabolize fat. They examined 70 patients with depression and compared them with 51 healthy controls. They measured cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and fatty acid levels, then gave the depressed patients 20 mg of SSRIs for a six-week period. For the SSRI non-responders, the dosage was increased to 50 mg. Fatty acid and cortisol levels were measured during the test period.
They found people who didn’t respond to SSRIs had an abnormal fatty acid metabolism. After examining the diets of the participants, one thing stood out: people who ate fish regularly responded to SSRI treatment and had a normal fatty acid metabolism, while those who rarely or never ate fish didn’t respond to treatment. Because they didn’t eat fish and supply their brain with these important fatty acids, they were unable to get a response. And the more fish a person ate, the more effective the SSRIs were.
Although this indicates an association and not a cause-and-effect relationship, it makes sense. Omega 3 is important to both physical health and brain health. Your brain is about 60% fat, so it relies on dietary fat to replace lost brain cells and maintain a normal metabolism.
If you’re depressed, either mildly or severely, it might be worthwhile to include some fatty fish in your diet. It’s linked to improved mood and might improve the effects of medication you’re currently taking, so it’s definitely worth a try. Furthermore, there are a number of other health benefits associated with the omega 3 found in fish.
Try to eat a can of tuna or a serving of salmon or mackerel at least once a week, or even more if possible. If you don’t like the taste, there are a number of recipes you can try to add flavor and improve your experience. One of the simplest ways to make tuna taste better is to mix it up with some avocado and put it in a whole grain pita.
Source for Today’s Article:
European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP), “Fish intake associated with boost to anti-depressant response,” ScienceDaily web site, October 20, 2014; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141020090142.htm.
“An Estimated 1 in 10 U.S. Adults Report Depression,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site, April 20, 2012; http://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdepression/, last accessed October 23, 2014.