Omega 3 Depression Causes

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Omega 3 Depression Causes

Many in the natural healing field are familiar with “Omega 3 Depression”, or depression caused by Omega 3 deficiency. In fact, numerous studies have shown the link between the shortage of Omega 3 fatty acids to depression.

However, the deficiency of Omega 3 in the brain is only one part of the depression story. The ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 available to the brain is actually also a critical factor to the health of both the mind and body. Deficiency in particular Omega 6 fatty acids like Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) have also shown to contribute to depression.


Omega 3, 6 deficiency and Depression

Omega 3 and Omega 6 are essential fatty acids (EFAs) that are obtained mainly through our diet because our bodies are unable to produce enough within. These fatty acids work in harmony to maintain many important bodily and brain functions.

The Omega-6-Omega-3-depression link is simple. The brain is made up of 60% fat. The various fatty acids make up most of the membrane of the brain’s nerve cells. They play important roles in the transmission of messages across synapses between nerve cells.

Without sufficient EFAs, neurons in the body malfunction or even die off. When this happens, brain functions are disrupted. For example, stress responses may go haywire or out of control, eventually triggering the onset of depression.

The “Omega 3 depression” link is seen in how Omega 3 fatty acids are required for the production and secretion of hormones, some of which like estrogen and testosterone are also linked to depression.

Omega 3 fatty acids are also needed for the normal functioning of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine [1], which in turn play important roles in regulating mood. Omega 3 fatty acids are also needed for the uptake of B vitamins [2] that help stabilize emotions. This probably explains “Omega 3 depression” – why deficiency in Omega 3 (particularly DHA and EPA) has been found in many patients with depression. [3]

The ”Omega 6 depression” link involves Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA), a type of Omega 6 fatty acid our body produces from Linoleic Acid (LA) found in vegetable oils. [3]

GLA is needed for the production of prostaglandin E1 (PGE1), a powerful brain antidepressant metabolite. When trans-fatty acids interfere with and block the conversion of LA to GLA in the body, the supply of PGE1 in the body is lowered. Lowered PGE1 is in turn associated with depression, while an excess is linked to euphoria and mania [3].


Omega 3 versus Omega 6 – The need for balance

There’s more to fatty-acid-deficiency-induced depression than “Omega 3 depression” and “Omega 6 depression”.

Treating depression naturally means that we also need to ensure the correct balance of Omega 3 to Omega 6 in our brains.

This is because Omega 6 fatty acids are used in the manufacture of eicosanoids hormones that trigger the inflammation response in the body, while Omega 3 fatty acids stimulate the production of anti-inflammatory hormones [1].

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