Omega 3 in Wild Salmon: The Neuro-nutrient Connection
The purpose of this article is to introduce the evidence that will connect the importance of omega 3 fatty acid to mood and cognitive disorders. It is estimated that nearly 58 million people have a mental illness which is approximately 1 out of 4 adults, (2005). Research is showing evidence that a deficiency of essential fatty acids (EFAs) is detrimental to proper mental functioning, especially Omega 6, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Omega 3, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The development and function of the central nervous system can be considered the primary default system in the formation of mood and cognitive disorders. Animal studies have shown reduced accrual of omega 3 (DHA) during critical stages of brain development resulting in neurocognition deficits and elevated behavioral indices of anxiety, aggression, and depression. The amount of omega 3 or 6 in the cell membrane determines its response to depression. The Harvard Mental Health Letter, 2011, reported that “omega 3 contributes to heart and neurological health and is vital for fetal brain development”. Supplementing omega 3 will increase the neuro conductivity of the brain decreasing inflammation and depression. Omega 3, DHA, is responsible for gene expression of the brain, retina, liver and adipose tissues.
Inflammation and anxiety lower with Omega 3
Kiecolt-Glaser and her team of researchers tested omega 3 supplementation for lowering inflammation and anxiety in 68 medical students in a 12-week, double blind placebo-control study. Results showed that lipopolysaccharides and interleukin 6 was decreased by 14%, with a 20% decrease in anxiety. A review of nutritional therapies reported that omega 3 was clinically tested in 244 studies for depression, bipolar and schizophrenia. Studies are showing strong correlation with omega 3 and mental disorders.
Depression and Omega 3
Depression has been viewed as an inflammatory response in the cytokine hypothesis. Major depression has been seen in 20% of patients after heart attacks. The immune response to the inflammation may be producing the depression. Inflammation causes apoptosis (cell death) and the cellular death creates the depression. The pro-inflammatory cytokines that are involved in the immune response are TNFa, interleukin 1& 2, and interferon-gamma. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are known to inhibit cell apoptosis. Omega 3 is known to be depleted during pregnancy, doubling the risk of depression, reported by the Avon Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood.
Research is showing that depression appears in various mental disorders. Let’s review three separate studies on the use of omega 3 and depression. The first study focused on 20 unipolar adults and showed significant results by week 3. The second study was conducted in 28 children with major depression and the results showed significant on all three scales. The last study consisted of 12 bipolar outpatients with depressive symptoms. Eight out of ten individuals showed 50% reduction on their one month follow-up on the Hamilton Depression scores. It appears that in major depression, neurotransmission of the dopamine receptors have changed. Supplementation increased dopamine in the frontal cortex.
Bipolar and Omega 3
Bipolar consist of a major depressive state and mania. In a study, 16 juvenile bipolar disorder participants were given EFAs. The mania improved slightly but the depression improved over 50%. Parent rating on child’s behavior after treatment also improved. Bipolar individuals usually have low levels of omega 3 (EPA) needed for proper thinking, and taking 1 to 2 grams daily will reduce manic depressive symptoms.
Attention Deficit – Hyperactivity Disorder and Omega 3
Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurological failure in parts of the brain that exhibits inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. The child may display one or more of the behaviors and may have learning disabilities reported by the National Institute of Mental Health, 1999. Areas of the brain associated with dysfunction are basal ganglia, and right prefrontal cortex. Preterm babies show deficits in cortical gray matter maturation and children diagnosed with ADHD or schizophrenia show the same, (McNamara & Carlson, 2006).
A small sample of nine ADHD children were given fatty acids supplements while they continued to take stimulant medication for eight weeks. There were significant improvements in hyperactivity and inattention. A literature review on studies conducted on ADHD and polyunsaturated fatty acids suggested the use of long chain fatty acids and gamma-linolenic acid for 3-4 months leading to a reduction of symptoms. Low levels of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids were found in children with ADHD.
Schizophrenia and Omega 3
Schizophrenia disorder changes a person’s perception of reality and is accompanied by delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations. Omega 3 fatty acids were given to a schizophrenic non-medicated individual resulting in a reversal of symptoms. This mono study showed both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids were corrected in the cell membrane. The omega 3 also changed negative levels of arachidonic acid either by activation of a fatty acid coenzyme or by inhibition of a specific phospholipase. A study done on 25 healthy adults with O-Life questionnaire and blood samples to see if levels of omega 3 coincided with positive schizotyl traits. Schizophrenic individual have low omega 3. Their results showed positive schizotypy but not negative withdrawal, leaving the evidence that omega 3 can be used as a treatment. Another study analyzed 61 schizophrenia patients on fatty acids and B vitamin status. Patients had high saturated fats and low polyunsaturated fats of omega 3 and 6. They also had high homocysteine levels and low B12 vitamins. Risk factors for low fatty acids are alcohol assumption and duration of illness. A study on 17 schizophrenic patients medicated on haloperidol, were given 1000 mg of omega 3 fatty acids, 400 units of vitamin E and 1000 mg of vitamin C per day. Results showed a benefit effect of supplementation on negative symptoms of the illness, the side effects of the medication, and restless leg syndrome (akathisia). Superoxide dismutase was also lower at the end of the study, (Sivrioglua, et al (2007).
Mental Retardation and Omega 3
A study conducted to analyze 31 mentally unstable boys from South Korea on the levels of omega 3/omega 6 ratio. They reported, by increasing the DHA by one unit, odds of “mental retardation decreased by 74%”. Somega-6 were higher and Somega-3 were lower. The ratio needs to be reserved with more 3-omega fatty acid than 6.
Alzheimer’s Disease and Omega 3
Alzheimer’s Disease is classified as a neurodegenerative disease that is characterized by “amyloid plaques, neurofibrillary tangles, and dystrophic neuritis”. Low levels of DHA, as well as other low-level phospholipids are noticed in several brain regions.
Foods with Omega 3 (veryhealthy.life site)
Try to eat foods that are rich in Omega 3s or plant-based foods that contain another Omega-3 EFA known as ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). ALA converts to EPA and DHA a low ratio in the body. Here is a short list: Grass-fed beef, Anchovies, Fontina cheese, Spinach, Navy beans, Firm tofu, Whole-grain mustard seeds, Wild rice, Omega-3 eggs, and Walnuts.
Chronic Disease and Omega 3
Healthline reported that most health organizations agree that 250–500 mg of combined EPA and DHA is enough for adults to maintain overall health. High amounts of omega-3 fats from fatty fish, algae and several high-fat plant foods. The site also mentioned that it helps reduce metabolic syndrome symptoms, helps treat lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and psoriasis.
Omega 3 Conclusion
In reviewing epidemiological and treatments studies that analyzed deficiency of omega 3 and mood disorders, I think it is safe to say that omega 3 plays an important role in the development and thinking brain. My research was conducted between the years 2002 to 2011. The latest and more in-depth research shows that omega 3 has neuroprotective properties and can help with neurodegenerative and neurological disorders. Clinical trails on EPAs show benefits in mood disorders. Alzheimer’s disease has focused on DHA and is the most important omega 3 in the brain. DHA is vital to neural membranes. EPA, DPA, and DHA can produce enzyme derived anti-inflammatory mediators and aid with brain health and repair.
Healthline has reported the same health benefits that I listed. If you wish to read the full article on the latest research, please just google the doi number listed here.
Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience 7:52. Article: Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and the brain: a review of the independent and shared effects of EPA, DPA and DHA
To Your Health!