Australia: Don’t worry, be happy: eat seafood Published: 01 May, 2006
AN organisation working to alert Australians to the health benefits of seafood has welcomed commencement of a study into the role of fish in easing the symptoms of depression.
Mr Roy Palmer, Deputy Chair of Seafood Services Australia (SSA), said Australian scientists are testing fish oil as an anti-depressant after overseas studies showed countries with high seafood consumption have lower rates of mood disorders.
“Sydney’s Black Dog Institute has recruited people with mild to moderate depression aged 21 to 65 to assess the benefits of fish oil supplements, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids,” Mr Palmer said. “This follows international studies showing countries where
people eat more fish, such as Japan and Norway, have lower rates of depression, plus it has been shown that Omega-3 levels are lower in depressed patients. Therefore, the Black Dog Institute is looking at treating people who have depression with Omega-3 since Omega-3 depletion is likely to be linked with their condition.”
“Scientists know 60% of the brain comprises fats, the most important being Omega-3, such as those in fish oil, and Omega-6. Omega-3s are important for the permeability of cell membranes, allowing free flow of chemicals in and out of neurons in the brain but, if people do not eat enough Omega-3-rich foods, mainly oily fish, lower levels of Omega-3 in the brain may contribute to mood disorders.
“Black Dog Institute Executive Director Professor Gordon Parker has said the suspicion is that dietary changes, if they are playing a part in mood disorders, may have been creeping up on us over the last three or four decades as we have been eating more processed foods. At the same time, while anti-depressant drugs are still considered the ‘gold standard’ treatment for depression, they cannot be tolerated in some people, so scientists believe it is important to investigate alternatives. By contrast, fish oil is relatively free of side effects.”
Mr Palmer said SSA, a national industry-government body, was working to highlight the health benefits of seafood because of its proven positive impact on a range of serious illnesses, and so welcomed the focus on the benefits of seafood in relation to mental conditions.
“Community-wide consumption of seafood, particularly oily fish, two to three times a week would prevent thousands of premature deaths and save hundreds of millions of dollars in health costs every year,” Mr Palmer said. “The risk of serious illness involving heart attack, stroke, diabetes and bowel cancer, for example, can be reduced by seafood, but it is becoming evident a range of mental conditions can also be eased or avoided with seafood.
“In recent years, studies conducted in countries including the United States, the Netherlands, Finland and New Zealand have suggested positive effects of seafood consumption, via Omega-3 fish oils, on conditions including general depression, post-natal depression, hostility rates in young adults, moderately severe borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorders. Seafood has frequently been described as a ‘mood stabiliser’
“These studies and many other positive results have all been published in medical journals but they are slow to filter through to the general public. We welcome Australian-based research like that being conducted by the Black Dog Institute because local results are far more likely to reach the Australian public and so alert them to further health benefits from seafood.
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