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There’s nothing fishy about this

While some fats, such as saturated fats and trans-fatty acids, are responsible for heart disease, obesity and other health hazards, there are other, good fats that are essential to good physical and mental health.

Several studies have established a clear connection between omega-3 fatty acids and the treatment of depression, memory loss and cognitive function. People who added a daily fish-oil supplement to their antidepressant treatment had significant improvement in symptoms, including anxiety, insomnia, sadness, decreased sexual desire and suicidal thoughts. Researchers at Harvard Medical School have successfully used fish oil to treat bipolar disorder.

Fish oil contains EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which is essential to normal brain function, and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Low DHA levels have been linked to low brain serotonin levels and an increased tendency to depression and suicide.

Omega 3 fatty acids can be found in fish, especially oily, coldwater fishes. Good fish choices include mackerel, salmon, canned sardines, herring, bluefish and squid. (A 3-oz. serving of mackerel provides 2.5 grams of omega 3 fatty acids, while the same size serving of tuna provides only .3 grams.) A healthy diet for everyone should include three servings a week of these fish.

Flax seed is the second best source of omega-3s. Whole flax seeds can be ground and added to food and it’s found in some cereals. Flax seed meal or flax seed oil (one tablespoon/day) can be added to food. Flax seed oil capsules can be taken two to three times a day. Omega 3 fatty acids in flax seed are not as easily processed by the body as those in fish.
People with mood disorders should supplement their dietary requirements with fish oil capsules containing DHA and EPA for a daily dosage of 6000 mg/day, which contains 2000 mg/day of EPA. Take two to three capsules three times a day, 30 minutes before meals, if possible, with water. Do not skip a dose if you missed taking it with a meal. If you use a brand concentrated for EPA, you would take fewer pills to equal 2000 mg EPA. Do not use cod liver oil as your source of omegas. It contains too much vitamin D.

Possible side effects include a fishy aftertaste. (Eating a piece of citrus fruit afterward can help or you can buy a flavored version of fish oil.) Burping may also occur. It helps to keep pills in the freezer, which makes them release more slowly and thus farther down in your intestine. Omega-3 fatty acids can also cause stomach irritation, and may affect blood clotting in persons with bleeding disorders.

Fish oil supplements are not FDA approved as a treatment of mood disorders. Dr. Francisco Fernandez, chairman of the department of psychiatry at Loyola University Medical Center, says that fish oil is effective and well tolerated, but points out that no drug company is likely to put resources into further study for approval, because it cannot be patented, and therefore cannot produce profit.

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