Make no bones about it, food is a drug. What we eat clearly has an impact on how we feel in our bodies and how our brain functions. One of the medical doctors I revere most, Mark Hyman, has written extensively about the interaction between food and mental health. One particular beneficial supplement we can add to our diets is Omega-3 fatty acids. I know, I know, the first time I heard the term “fatty acids” I cringed as well. “That just sounds gross,” I thought. And then I did my own perusing of the research to find out for myself what all this hype was about. And I was overwhelmed. There is now mounting evidence from literally thousands of studies that is forging a strong connection between Omega-3s, an active compound found in plants and fish, to both physical and mental health. It’s been shown to help those with cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, menstrual pain, cancer, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, Type 2 diabetes, the list goes on and on.
Omega-3 has also been shown to help those suffering from a wide array of mental health concerns including depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, bipolar, dementia, autism, dyslexia, and aggression. Those struggling with anxiety have also benefitted from Omega 3s.
Here’s another great site about speaks extensively about Omega-3’s benefits.
The following are several cautions to consider when thinking about adding an Omega-3 supplement to your diet:
- It is possible to overdose. 1-2 grams/day is the recommended limit for most Westerners. And because Omega-3 can thin your blood, it is to be used with caution for those already on blood thinners.
- Not all Omega-3 supplements are equally as pure. According to Dr. Sears in The Anti-Inflammation Zone, we should not trust the fancy labels that tote how ‘pure’ their supplement is. He goes on to say the only independent source he recommends to find true, quality Omega-3 supplements is through the International Fish Oil Standards. He also states that Westerners do not get enough Omega-3 in their bodies, even if they were to eat fish regularly! Another important point to keep in mind. Lastly, here is a great vlog by Dr. Hyman on mercury poisoning and Omega-3.
- Make sure you look for EPA and DHA in Omega-3 supplements, not sources that only have ALA (e.g., flax seeds, walnuts). The research has focused more on the former forms with health benefits, as the latter needs to be broken down in the body and many argue isn’t as beneficial.
In summary, I liked how powerful one blog put it:
What Happens If I Take My Fish Oils?
- You may reduce your risk of the eye disease – age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
- You may reduce your risk of asthma and allergies.
- You may reduce your risk of clogged arteries, even if you have other risk factors for heart disease.
- You may prevent diabetic complications such as: myocardial infarction and stroke due to atherosclerosis, retinopathy, end-stage renal disease, debilitating neuropathies, poor wound healing, enhanced risk of infection, and periodontal disease.
- You may reduce your risk of memory loss and stroke in your old age.
- You may improve your cognition and memory while helping to fight against such mental disorders as depression and mood disorders, schizophrenia, and dementia.
What Happens If I Don’t
The opposite of above.
As always, before adding any supplements to your diet I encourage you to consult with your primary care physician first.
Here’s to your health!