Omega-3-rich fatty tuna and flaxseeds already have a reputation as brain-boosting foods. Now, a small study by the Penn State College of Medicine suggests that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids could actually contribute to maintaining optimal mental health.
Researchers compared a control group of 31 people to a group of 27 patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The bipolar disorder group had much lower levels of omega-3s, which leads scientists to believe that the healthy fat could contribute to overall mental health.
"Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can shift the balance of inflammation, which we think is important in bipolar disorder," study leader and Professor Erika Saunders said in a news release.
The idea that inflammation in the body and brain could contribute to mental illness is relatively new, but other research supports Ms. Saunders’ hypothesis. In a study published in 2013 of more than 3 million people, those who had been hospitalized for an infection were 62 percent more likely to develop a mood disorder like depression or bipolar disorder later on. The study’s researchers believed that lingering inflammation in the body initially brought on by infection could contribute to mental health issues later on.
While more research is still needed to support the findings, supplementing with natural anti-inflammatory agents like omega-3 fatty acids could be necessary for a healthy brain, and might even help those battling mental illness.
Photo credit: Paul Delmont