Depression is an extremely common mental condition, and it can make living life very difficult. Work and relationships suffer, and at its worst, depression can make a person suicidal. There are countless medications designed to help alleviate the symptoms of depression, but many people need to make additional changes to truly feel better, and the often horrendous side effects can be worse than the actual depression. A diet change in combination with medication and/or counseling is one of the most effective ways to combat depression. Depending on your current diet and the severity of your depression, there are many things you can do, but numerous studies have shown that one of the best changes anyone can make is to eat more fish.
Using a total of 26 studies, researchers recently analyzed the connection between eating fish and rates of depression, and found that men who ate a lot fish had a 20% lower risk of depression, while women had a reduced risk of 16%. Another study looked at 13-25 year olds at risk for mental illnesses like schizophrenia. Half took fish oil pills and the other half took placebos. Of the group members that took fish pills, only 10% developed schizophrenia with seven years, while 40% of the placebo group were diagnosed with psychosis within that seven-year period. The conclusion was that fish oil pills can significantly delay schizophrenia for those at risk.
The exact “why” is unclear. It could be that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish are affecting dopamine and serotonin, which are neurotransmitters in the brain connected to depression. There’s also a good chance that people who eat a lot of fish generally eat a lot of other healthy food, resulting in an overall healthy diet that can stave off or even treat depression. However, the studies on fish and brain health do not always take into account the other foods people are eating, so it does seem that simply adding fish to your diet can make your brain healthier and better equipped to fight depression. Fish types that are especially high in omega-3 fatty acids include sardines, wild-caught salmon, herring, and of course, fish oil pills.