Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for maintaining good health. Your body needs omega-3 fatty acids but does not have the capability to produce them; therefore, you need to look elsewhere for a source. Fish is an excellent source for omega-3 fatty acids, and so are certain plants.
Why are omega-3 fatty acids so important? If you don't maintain a good balance of both omega-3 and omega-6 — another essential fatty acid — you may be at increased risk for depression. It makes sense, then, if you are suffering from depression, to get that balance back.
You've learned how important neurotransmitters are in preventing depression. Omega-3 fatty acids are important components of nerve cell membranes. They help nerve cells communicate with each other. Once again, balance is the key word. Maintaining a healthy balance is essential for optimal health.
Omega-3 fatty acids are being studied to gain further information about the roles they play in preventing depression. There's a great deal of interest in these substances, and the more scientists learn, the more they realize how important these essential fatty acids are. Here's a summary:
In a study of 30 people with bipolar disorder, those who were treated with EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) for a period of four months, in combination with their usual mood stabilizing medications, experienced fewer mood swings and recurrence of either depression or mania than the participants who received placebos.
The University of Maryland Medical Center reported on a study of patients hospitalized for depression. Researchers found that levels of omega-3 fatty acids were measurably low and the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids were particularly high in those patients.
In another study of people with depression, researchers found that those who ate a healthy diet, consisting of fatty fish two to three times per week for five years, experienced a significant reduction in feelings of depression and hostility. If you don't love fish by now, you haven't been paying attention!
What's an amino acid?
An amino acid is one of the 20 building blocks of protein. The functions of amino acids are determined by the genetic code in your DNA. It was during the late 19th and early 20th century that German biochemist Albrecht Kossel determined that amino acids were these “building blocks.”
EPA and DHA are found in cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, halibut, sardines, and herring. ALA (alanine) is an amino acid that is found in flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, canola (rapeseed) oil, soybeans, soybean oil, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil, purslane, perilla seed oil, walnuts, and walnut oil. These substances are also sold in the form of fish oil capsules.
Warning! If you bruise easily, have a bleeding disorder, or take blood-thinning medications, check with your physician to determine a safe amount of omega-3 fatty acids for you. In any case, it's always best to check with your doctor before adding any kind of supplement to your diet, even essentials such as omega-3s. Alanine, the amino acid, provides a nice segue to the next section.