So far in my blogs, I have discussed reversible causes of depression, including MTHFR deficiency and vitamin D deficiency. Another nutritional deficiency that has been associated with depression is omega-3 fatty acid deficiency. Omega 3 fats are found in fish, sea vegetables, nuts (especially walnuts), seeds (especially flaxseeds and chia seeds), and beans (especially soybeans.) Long chain omega-3 fats (DHA and EPA) have been found in hundreds of studies to be beneficial for so many common human conditions from depression, arthritis, eczema, and dry eyes, to heart disease and strokes.
Short chain omega-3 fats (ALA) have only a very limited ability (5-10%) to be converted to the longer chain omega-3 fats. As a society, we eat very little fish (the highest source of long chain omega-3s), and omega-3 fat deficiency is likely epidemic. Testing for omega-3 levels is currently not standard. Most hospitals’ labs are not currently offering routine blood testing for omega-3 fats.
I recommend a minimum of 1,000mg/d of omega-3 fats for healthy individuals. For patients suffering from depression, I recommend doses ranging from 2,000 to 4,000mg/d. Studies utilizing the higher doses have shown the most benefit, with minimal side effects. In fact, since omega-3s are a necessary component of every cell in your body, most patients will report “side benefits” of taking omega-3 supplements. Not only is their depression improved, but their skin and eyes are less dry, and they usually report fewer aches and pains!
Note: Mercury is an issue in recommending eating more fish. The fish highest in omega-3 fats with lowest mercury levels include anchovies, herring, mackerel (Atlantic, NOT King or Spanish, from the Gulf of Mexico), sardines, trout, and salmon.