Omega-3 and the healthy, happy brain

Omega-3 fatty acids are important components of nerve and brain cell membranes and have been highly touted to benefit conditions such as depression, schizophrenia and attention deficit disorder (ADD). In a new study, researchers from the KIRC in Israel looked at how these beneficial fats might also help alleviate epileptic seizures. For this study, five epilepsy patients from the institute were given 5 grams per day of a special nutritional spread containing 65% fatty acids, for a period of six months. Researchers wanted to see if omega-3 polyunsaturated fats could alleviate or reduce the frequency of seizures in patients with central nervous system disorders. They weren’t disappointed! Each patient showed a reduction in both frequency and strength of seizures.

In a second study at the Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben Gurion University in Israel, researchers tested the effects of a diet high in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) for the treatment of patients with depressive disorders. EPA is a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in fish and fish oils. Twenty patients with some form of depression participated in a four-week double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Some patients were given EPA supplements in addition to their anti-depression medications, while others received a placebo. By the third week of treatment, the researchers reported “highly significant benefits” in the depression patients taking the EPA supplements. EPA can be obtained from regular consumption of cold-water fish such as salmon, trout and herring. However, to meet therapeutic needs, a fish oil supplement is likely necessary.

Sources: Am J Psychiatry 2002 Mar;159(3):477-9; Epilepsia 2002 Jan;43(1):103-4