It is no secret the benefits that Omega-3’s has in regards to brain function, but a startling study has shown that the presence of Omega-3’s in daily diet could be more important than you think when it comes to mental health, too.
The consumption of omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil in particular) has gained wide recognition for hosting a variety of benefits, but recent military news is painting its importance in a whole new light.
The paper studies the effect of Omega-3 fatty acids on Suicide Deaths of Active Duty US Military and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Status: A Case-Control Comparison.
This paper reports on an observational study about suicide rates among soldiers and has noticed a correlation between suicide rates and low Omega-3 levels.
Participants were 800 randomly selected suicide victims who were in the military between 2002 and 2008. This group was compared to a match group of 800 participants. The individuals under review were case matched for their exposure to stress while under deployment, a report which determined their mental health status, demographics and other points of study. The paper says 99.1% of the controls had been deployed as opposed to only 61.9% of the suicides.
Following this, the Omega-3 fatty acid content of the blood of the participants was taken into account, and the lower the DHA (fish oil) in the blood, the more likely the person was to have committed suicide.
The study reported that the women appeared to have higher DHA levels than the men, and therefore lower suicide rates. Other conclusions that were drawn have shown that men in the lowest DHA category were 62% more likely to commit suicide within the higher range of DHA.
Other fatty acids of interest – lower levels of stearic acid (a saturated fat found in chocolate and steak) were found to be associated with increased risk of suicide.
Also, and equally as alarming, US military personnel were found to have, on average, a lower DHA level than average North American, Australian, Mediterranean, and Asian populations. To put this into further perspective, this risk increase coincides with the risk of undergoing severe stress or post traumatic stress under deployment and the risk of suicide.
The observational nature of the study doesn’t allow us to make too many solid conclusions, but it fits with other observational and controlled trials with regards to depression and makes physiological sense.
So in conclusion, eat those marine omega-3’s to keep your mental health in good condition. It’s more important than you think, and it could be the most important decision you’ve made!