Eating more fish could lower risk of depression

By Rebecca Burton • Published: December 14th, 2015
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Depression is the world’s leading cause of disability, affecting an estimated 350 million people. By 2020, depression is also predicted to become the world’s second-leading cause of disease. Because current treatments do not always work and sometimes come with side effects, scientists are trying to identify lifestyle factors that might influence the risk of depression.

A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology found that eating seafood is linked to a 17 percent reduced risk of depression. This suggests that eating more fish could help prevent depression in some people.

To conduct the study, the research team analyzed data from relevant studies published between 2001 and 2014. They focused on 16 studies, including data from more than 150,000 patients. Most of the people the researchers analyzed were from Europe and North America. Results showed there was a 20 percent reduced risk of depression in men and a 16 percent reduced risk in women who ate seafood on a regular basis.

The authors suggest future research should investigate whether differences in fish species and preparation methods or biological factors could affect the reduction in depression risk. The results also complement another recent study, which found omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can reduce the risk of psychosis.

Researchers suggest that the reason for the link between eating fish and a lessened risk for depression has to do with omega-3 fatty acids changing the structure of brain membranes. These changes can alter levels of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, in the body, both of which play a role in depression. The authors also suggest that the high quality of protein, vitamins and minerals from seafood also has a positive effect on preventing depression.