EPA in fish oil can reduce depression in teenage boys

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It has already been well established in countless previous studies that the essential fatty acids in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna and swordfish, play an important role in healthy brain development and function.

Many people with depression and other mental health problems have been found to have lower levels of essential fatty acids found in oily fish in their blood and this has led to an increase in the number of studies into whether supplementing with fish oil may be beneficial in the treatment of depression. So far the results have proved extremely promising.

Now an interesting study from Japan has found that eating more oily fish lowered the risk of depression in teenage boys, however, the same effect wasn’t seen in the girls.

Kentaro Murakami from the University of Tokyo along with colleagues analysed the diets and the rates of depression in completed data for more than 6,500 teenagers in Japan.

The researchers used questionnaires to establish the teenagers’ diets and depression symptoms. The diet questionnaire included questions on dietary behaviour and also listed different types of fish and other foods commonly eaten in Japan, a country already known for a higher consumption of fish.

The depression questionnaire used was a version of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) scale which contains 20 questions relating to six depression symptoms experienced during the previous week.

What they found was that 22.5 percent of the boys and 31.2 percent of the girls were suffering from some of the symptoms of depression.

The researchers looked for links between depression and fish consumption and compared intake of Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) or both. EPA and DHA are both long chain fatty acids found in oily fish.

After studying the diet data they discovered that boys who consumed higher levels of EPA had a 27 percent decreased risk of suffering from depression.

There was an association between consuming DHA, and both DHA and EPA together and reduced risk of depression and but the results were not significant.

Interestingly, the fatty acids appeared to have little effect on the girls. The reasons for this aren’t clear but the researchers maintain that perhaps the genetic component of depression is stronger in females and diet plays less of a role.

More research is required to confirm these findings.

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