Depressed? Eat fish!
Tucking into a fish dinner of salmon or sardines could
improve your mental health says a professor in the Department
of Psychiatry at Université de Montréal. François
Lespérance says eating fatty fish, or taking Omega-3
supplements can actually be a good alternative to taking
“A diet rich in Omega 3 has the advantage of not
causing any side effects and being more socially acceptable,
and it could convince uncooperative patients to start treatment,” the
psychiatrist claims. In a recent study, he was interested
in exploring the benefits depressed people could gain in
taking Omega-3. The preliminary results were published in
the journal Biological Psychiatry last January.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids are necessary to a body’s
functioning and are found in vegetable oils, particularly
sunflower, corn and canola, as well as certain dried fruits
and, of course, fatty fish.
Prof. Lespérance shares the theory that depression
could be brought on by a deficiency in polyunsaturated fatty
acids, namely Omega-3 and Omega-6. “They act on several
biological mechanisms,” the researcher says of the
fatty acids. “In the brain mechanism, they act on many
neuromessengers by increasing ease of transmission or activating
some neurons differently.”
The pilot study, the final results of which will be available
at the end of June, looked at 90 patients suffering minor
and severe depression who were on antidepressant medication.
An Italian study of 11,000 patients, showed that a diet rich
in Omega 3 protects against the symptoms of cardiovascular
and psychiatric disease. Prof. Lespérance would now
like to move onto his own clinical trial.
The psychiatrist at the CHUM’s Hôtel-Dieu Hospital
first began his interest in fatty-acid’s effect on
depression by studying the links between depression and cardiovascular
disease. People who are depressed after a heart attack have
a higher risk of morbidity. These patients are also more
likely to develop cardiovascular disease,” François
We know that the brain controls the hormonal system, especially
the cathecholamines (the hormones related to adrenaline).
When disruption occurs, regulation does not work as well
as normally. Blood platelets are also activated, which can
cause thromboses (blockage of the arteries) and increase
the inflammatory mechanisms that trigger heart attacks. Depressed
people therefore develop more systemic illnesses, such as
brain and vascular diseases.
The ability of polyunsaturated fatty acids in preventing
cardiovascular disease is known. Several studies have demonstrated
their benefits against atherosclerosis, a chronic disease
of the arteries that gradually clogs the arterial wall. It
seems to make sense then that someone has looked at its link