Omega-3 and Depression

Omega-3 and depression relief

Depression is a real disease suffered by 1 out of every 10 Americans [i]. Whether it is major, minor, post-partum, or seasonal depression, the symptoms and strategies are the same. Conventional medicine recommends medications of all sorts. Lifestyle, diet, exercise, talk therapy, and nutrient supplementation have all been offered as possible management tools. In recent years, studies on the relationship between the fat omega-3 and depression have offered a new remedy.

Omega 3 fatty acids are found in fish and fish oil, and more and more attention keeps getting drawn to the beneficial link between omega-3 and depression. As Dr. Sears says, “Omega-3s are to the brain what calcium is to the bone.” In other words, Omega-3 fats are essential to the development of the brain in childhood and the functioning of the brain in adulthood. That is why Omega-3 fatty acids are sometimes referred to as EFAs (Essential Fatty Acids).

There are literally thousands of studies proving the positive effect of Omega 3 fatty acids on depressive symptoms. Most studies agree that at least 1,000mg (1gram)[ii] of Omega 3 consumption is helpful. But a few studies recommend doses as high as 6,000mg (6 grams) per day[iii].

Eat fish and be happy

So how do you get enough of this famous fat? Dr. Sears says “Eat fish and be happy.” Below is a chart explaining how much of each fish or seafood you would need to eat in order to get 1,000mg (1 gram) of Omega 3 fatty acids per day.


For example, according to the chart below you would need to eat 11 oz of shrimp or 20 oz of catfish, or 12 oz of tuna PER DAY in order to get just 1,000mg (1 gram) . Wild caught salmon and sardines are a much better choice because you only need to 2 ounces per day, or 6 ounces twice a week, to equal the 1,000 mg that has been shown to be effective.

But who eats fish every day? Maybe you should if your mood is down; especially knowing the benefits of eating omega-3 and depression relief. If you don’t eat enough seafood to get 1,000 mg of more per day, then consider supplementing your diet with a high quality fish oil supplement. Dr. Sears recommends Vital Choice seafood and supplements as a resource for high quality fish oil supplements.

TABLE 1[iv]
Approximate EPA Plus DHA Content in Fish and Amount of Fish Required to Provide 1 g of EPA plus DHA

Type of fishEPA plus DHA content, g per 3-oz serving of fish (edible portion)Amount of fish (oz) required to provide approximately 1 g of EPA plus DHA per day*
Crab, Alaskan King0.358.5
Halibut0.40 to 1.003.0 to 7.5
Mackerel0.34 to 1.572.0 to 8.5
Atlantic, farmed1.09 to 1.831.5 to 2.5
Atlantic, wild0.90 to 1.562.0 to 3.5
Sardines0.98 to 1.702.0 to 3.0
Shrimp, mixed species0.2711.0
Fresh0.24 to 1.282.5 to 12.0
White, canned in water, drained0.734.0
EPA = eicosapentaenoic acid; DHA = docosahexaenoic acid.

*The intakes of fish given are very rough estimates because oil content can vary markedly (more than 300 percent) with species, season, diet, and packaging and cooking methods.

Adapted with permission from Kris-Etherton PM, Harris WS, Appel LJ; American Heart Association. Nutrition Committee. Fish consumption, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, and cardiovascular disease. Circulation 2002;106:2753, with information from reference 3.

Carly Neubert, BA, NC is a certified Nutrition Consultant and Dr. Sears Health Coach. She lives on the gorgeous Central Coast of California with her husband and dog. She has a decade of experience in the natural health industry including attending Hawthorn University. Her devotion to nutrition comes from her own journey to manage anxiety, fatigue, depression and digestive issues. Her mantra is “food is information” —let your body know how you want it to perform by giving it good information in the form of high quality nourishing foods. Aside from community education classes, Carly has a clinical practice at Nest Integrative Medicine Spa in Santa Barbara, CA.