The Connection Between Fish and Your Mental Health


Eating fish is a tasty way to improve your health. From tuna to salmon, these treats of the sea are packed with protein and omega-3 fatty acids. And these omega-3s are potent ways to advance personal health and wellness. Several fish are high in these oils including tuna and lake trout.

Fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids can also help to prevent cardiovascular disease, serve to lower blood pressure and are shown to reduce the risk of heart arrhythmias. Individuals who consume fish regularly have lower triglyceride levels and the sea dwelling delights can also help with arthritis. Omega-3s are also known for decreasing the risks of cancer, depression and attention deficit disorder. The best place to get the oils is from fish, although supplements are available as well.

One area of particular interest as it relates to the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids is in the mental health arena. A body of research has indicated that the use of omega-3 to treat depression, psychosis and schizophrenia may offer some level of relief from these symptoms. Let’s take a look at schizophrenia, beginning with the symptoms and onset.

The Onset of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a chronic, debilitating and serious disorder of the brain. Individuals who are experiencing this condition may hear voices in their head that do not exist in reality. This causes a paranoia that other people are “out to get them.” Further, those effected by this illness will sit for long periods of time without moving or speaking. There are different kinds of schizophrenia including the following:

  • Paranoid schizophrenic
  • Catatonic schizophrenic
  • Residual schizophrenic
  • Disorganized schizophrenic
  • Schizoaffective disorder

The illness presents itself with several symptoms, which are organized into three categories including negative symptoms, positive symptoms and cognitive symptoms.

Negative symptoms include disturbances in normal emotions and behaviors including such things as lack of enjoyment in daily life and inability to plan, begin and sustain different activities.

Positive symptoms include psychotic behaviors that normal adults do not exhibit including the following:

  • Hallucinations
  • Thought disorders
  • Delusions
  • Movement disorders

Finally, cognitive symptoms are also noticed with an individual who has this illness, which include abysmal “executive function” of the brain, issues with working memory, problems focusing or paying attention and additional symptoms.

Any illness or disease often has risk factors that lead to the potential onset of the condition. Family history, environmental factors, brain abnormalities, loss of parent during adolescent years, socioeconomic and other culture factors and complications during pregnancy or birth also pose potential risks for schizophrenia. Understanding these potential risks and managing them is essential to prevention of this syndrome.

Even the best efforts of preventing a disease may not work. Recently, however, literature is supporting the use of omega-3 fatty acids to aid in prevention efforts for mental health illnesses.

Interestingly, this is a foray into a new area of research and development. As prevention (versus treatment) methods become the emphasis in the health care world, more research investments in prevention are made. This produces opportunities to look at alternative ways of curbing mental health diseases.

Omega-3 and Your Mental Health

Research suggests that omega-3 consumption levels have decreased in the last 50-100 years. This decrease in consumption has likely had an impact on overall physical and mental health. Many of the physical and mental health ailments can be partially attributed to dietary habits. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have a number of positive health effects. To decrease consumption of these fats is problematic.

There are several components of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is a fatty acid found in the skin of cold water fish. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is another omega-3 found in cold water fish. Research indicates that the combination of these two compounds can have a positive influence on primary depression. This dynamic duo also has a positive impact on depression and suicide.

Further research showed that these two acids have benefits for the treatment of borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia. Additional studies also showed that omega-3 fatty acids are effective as short-term interventions for the treatment of schizophrenia.

As more is known about the properties of omega-3 fatty acids and as further research is conducted, added connections to mental health functioning may be made.



What Level of Omega-3 Consumption Is Appropriate?

Recommendations are different for adults, children and pregnant women. In general, two servings of fish each week is suggested for adults, but if you’re taking supplements you may want to look at specific dosages for each supplement you choose. Consulting a physician is a good way to make sure you’re following appropriate guidelines for utilization.

Teach a Man to Fish and Feed (Your Brain) for a Lifetime

Eating right and maintaining your health is an on-going effort. Hardwiring omega-3 recipes into your diet is a delicious way to get EPA and DHA, which is shown to improve mental functioning.

Beyond mental health, this wonder fat will foster additional health improvements such as fighting wrinkles, reducing skin break outs, enhancing fertility and safeguarding your vision. So instead of an apple a day for health….perhaps a couple fish a week.

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