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Depressed? Eat More Fish

A study published in the February 2009 issue of the journal Nutrition found that omega-3 fatty acids from fish may reduce the risk and frequency of depression symptoms among women.

The study began in 1985 and ran for 20 years. It included 3,317 Caucasian and African-American men and women with an average age of 35 (at the beginning of the study).

At year seven, researchers used a food frequency questionnaire to determine fish consumption and the amount of omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) participants got through food.

At years 10, 15 and 20 of the study, depression symptoms were measured using a common scale called the "20-item Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale."

At year 10, researchers from Northwestern University, the University of North Carolina and the University of California compared participants with the highest intake of EPA and DHA to those with the lowest.

They found that overall, participants with the highest EPA and DHA consumption had less depressive symptoms.

Then the researchers analyzed the study group based on gender and found significant benefits among women but almost none for the men.

Women with the highest fish intake had 25% less depressive moments than those with the lowest intakes. The highest consumption of EPA and DHA was associated with a 34% lower risk of developing depression symptoms.

This is the second study in as many weeks showing that omega-3s may be an effective tool to combat depression in women. The other, published in the February 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that omega-3s improved depression symptoms among post-menopausal women.

In addition to mental health benefits, omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to improve heart health and cognitive function, lower cholesterol and support healthy eyes.

EPA and DHA are the two most important forms of omega-3 fatty acids and each has been associated with a number of health benefits.

DHA has been shown to play an important role in brain development and may also have eye health benefits. Several studies have indicated that EPA may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's, dementia, heart disease and mood disorders like depression.

A good way to get more omega-3s is to maintain a diet rich in cold water fish like salmon, mackerel and herring. If you aren't a fan of fish - or worry about contaminants like lead or mercury - a safe alternative may be to take a high quality omega-3 supplement that's certified for purity and contains at least 750 mg of combined EPA and DHA.
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