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n interesting study from London, England shows that people with schizophrenia have an abnormal ratio of fatty acids in their cell membranes and givng them omega-3 fatty acids corrrects both their schizophrenia and membrane abnormalities (1). Other studies show that depression may be caused by omega-3 deficiency that results from not eating enough nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans and deep-water fish (2).

Many psychiatrists treat depression with drugs that raise brain levels of serotonin. Now we learn that a diet deficient in omega-3 fatty acids may lower brain levels of serotonin and can cause depression. Studies show that depression is associated with low levels of red blood cell membrane and low intake of omega-3 fatty acids (3), that increased ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is associated with increased severity of depression (4,5). Depression is 60 times more common in New Zealand (6 percent) than in Japan (.12 percent); the difference may be explained by the high intake of omega-3-rich fish by the Japanese(6).

Post-partum depression is common in women after they give birth. Pregnancy uses up huge amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Women with the lowest blood levels of omega-3s are the ones most likely to suffer post-partum depression. Depression increases a person's chances of getting a heart attack. Depressed people often have low blood levels of omega-3s, and so do people who are likely to suffer heart attacks (6). So the association of depression and schizophrenia with heart attacks may be explained by both being caused by low omega-3 fatty acid levels. If these studies can be supported by further studies, some cases of depression may be prevented and treated by eating plenty of deep-water fish, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains.

1) BK Puri, AJ Richardson, DF Horrobin, T Easton, N Saeed, A Oatridge, JV Hajnal, GM Bydder. Eicosapentaenoic acid treatment in schizophrenia associated with symptom remission, normalisation of blood fatty acids, reduced neuronal membrane phospholipid turnover and structural brain changes. International Journal of Clinical Practice, 2000, Vol 54, Iss 1, pp 57-63.

2) C B. Nemeroff, D Musselman, MD. Emory. Archives of General Psychiatry April, 1999.;56:381.

3) Edwards R, Peet M, Shay J, Horrobin D. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid levels in the diet and in red blood cell membranes of depressed patients. J Affect Disord. 1998;48:149-155.

4) Adams PB, Lawson S, Sanigorski A, Sinclair AJ. Arachidonic acid to eicosapentaenoic acid ratio in blood correlates positively with clinical symptoms of depression. Lipids. 1996;31:S-157-161.

5) Maes M, Smith R, Christophe A, Cosyns P, Desnyder R, Meltzer H. Fatty acid composition in major depression: decreased omega 3 fractions in cholesteryl esters and increased C20:4 omega-6/C20:5 omega-3 ratio in cholesteryl esters and phospholipids. J Affect Disord. 1996;38:35-46.

6) Musselman DL, Evans DL, Nemeroff CB. The relationship of depression to cardiovascular disease: epidemiology, biology, and treatment. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1998;55:580-592.

Checked 9/1/05

May 12th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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