Omega-3s Relieve Stress
Perhaps the saying “worried sick” has a biological basis. High levels of stress hormones, or high cortisol levels, are another cause of brain shrinkage. Brain cells are overstimulated and literally wear out. This condition, called glucocorticoid neurotoxicity, can result in a variety of mood disorders. Omega-3s relieve stress and mood disorders by protecting the connections between brain cells from attack by high levels of stress hormones.
I agree with the opinion of Dr. Bill Lands on how seafood that contains omega-3s relieve stress: “The sea may give us food that lessens our overreactions to the stresses in our lives on land.
The Brain Feels Better with Fish
Those researchers who have earned D degrees like MDs and PhDs really like how omega-3s relieve stress for their patients. Neurologists believe omega-3s fight depression by altering the brain’s neurotransmitters, increasing serotonin receptors, and boosting dopamine levels in the “happy centers” of the brain, the frontal lobes. Mood disorders are thought to be a chemical imbalance of serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine. Researchers generally agree that the role of EPA in alleviating mood disorders is primarily improving blood flow to the brain and decreasing inflammation of brain tissue.
The healthy fats found in oily seafood and fish oil supplements are becoming one of the most researched medicines for depression. Omega-3s help lower the highs (manic states) and raise the lows (depression). These “merry omegas” also help put a bit of a brain brake on people with impulsive and aggressive tendencies.
Could Omega-3s Be Lifesaving?
In 2009 I was a guest on a fishing expedition in Alaska. One of the other guests was the French physician and omega-3 researcher Dr. Thierry Lerond. I went fishing for some French connections between omega-3s and mental health. Dr. Lerond showed me the results of his study, which revealed that French soldiers who took omega-3 supplements were less likely to suffer psychiatric illnesses. When we met again, in September 2011, he shared with me that he had been invited to a NATO Operations Medical Conference to present his research to officers of the U.S. military.
The September 20, 2011, issue of USA Today showed the front-page headline, “Army Looking at How Fish Oil Might Reduce Suicides,” referring to a study conducted by the noted omega-3 researcher Dr. Joseph Hibbeln of the National Institutes of Health and his colleagues that compared groups of eight hundred service members and found that those with the lowest levels of omega-3s were 62 percent more likely to commit suicide.
Behavioral Brain Claims
The results of what science says about how omega-3s relieve stress and alleviate psychiatric illnesses are often difficult to interpret because so many other therapies are going on simultaneously and patient reporting is highly subjective. So we’re often left with what common sense says: Eat smarter fats, enjoy a better-behaved brain.