Growing evidence now shows omega-3s fatty acids will improve mood and restore structural integrity to brain cells that are critical in performing cognitive functions.
Antidepressant medications still raise concerns due to serious side effects which include suicidal thinking, worsening of depression, and changes in behavior. In fact, side effects are one of the reasons why people with depression stop complying with their medication. Consequently, more and more patients along with some healthcare professionals are looking for safer alternatives to drug therapies. Recent researches reveal that healthy Omega-3 fats may alleviate depression without causing negative effects.
What are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 fats are long-chain, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) derived from marine and plant foods. Since these fatty acids can’t be produced by the body, they must be sourced from our diet. Flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp, and walnut oils are also rich sources of the main Omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Dietary ALA can be processed in the liver to make Omega 3 Docosahexaenoic (DHA) and Omega-3 Eicosapentaenoic (EPA) acid. Seafood and fish offer different amounts of pre-formed DHA and EPA.
Omega-3 and Better Mood
Besides adipose tissue (body fat), the brain is one of the organs that has the most fat. Unlike body fat, however, brain fats don’t store or produce energy. They work mainly to support the cerebral membranes, nerve signaling, the modulation of gene expression (regeneration).
All organelles and cells in the brain depend on polyunsaturated Omega-3 fatty acids. In our central nervous system, one fatty acid in three is polyunsaturated fat. This is why brain health depends on us consuming foods rich in Omega-3.
Since Omega-3 Fat is an essential part of the central nervous system (CNS) membrane, it is vital to the healthy function and structure of brain cells. The presence of sufficient Omega-3 fatty acids can improve cell membrane fluidity. Having optimal fluidity is necessary for cellular communication.
So, do good fats equate to a better mood? Numerous clinical trials that evaluated Omega-3 supplements in individuals with different types of depression suggest that increasing DHA and EPA levels can truly make a difference.
Check Out The 5 Best Sources of Omega-3
Experts believe that DHA and EPA are as active as antidepressants within the brain. Since they are part of the cell membrane, Omega-3s help with what neuro-experts call the “second messenger systems,”, which carry messages from the outside into the cells.
Inflammation, Depression and Omega-3 Fatty Acid
Depression has been thought to be caused by a deficiency in monoamine neurochemicals in the body, particularly serotonin and norepinephrine. However, growing evidence supports that some forms of depression may be due to consistent low-grade inflammation in the body.
Numerous studies have linked depression with an increase in inflammatory markers, specifically cytokines. These cytokines, which include tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin-1 beta, and interferon, can have a direct and indirect influence on the central nervous system (CNS).
Some of the mechanisms of these cytokines include decreased availability of neurotransmitter precursor, changes in the metabolism of neurotransmitters, and activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary axis – the central stress response system of the body. Psychological stress can also elevate the levels of these cytokines. In other words, these are the bad guys thought to be behind to depression and other diseases.
Omega-3 fatty acids are the heroes in this story. Omega-3 fats, EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) in particular, are proven to have an inhibitory effect against cytokines. Furthermore, it has been found that the anti-inflammatory role of Omega-3 fatty acid may affect brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is decreased in level in people with depression. BDNF is a neuropeptide that promotes the growth and survival of brain cells.
Omega-3s are vital for optimum brain structure and performance. They are critical for a healthy mood and reduce mental distress. They are powerful fatty acids that are necessary throughout your life – ensuring healthy brain development in babies, keeping a healthy mood in adults, and protecting the aging brain from dementia and cognitive decline.
 Alan C Logan. (November 2004). Omega-3 fatty acids and major depression: A primer for the mental health professional. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC533861/
 J.M. Bourre. (2006). Effects of Nutrients (in food) on the Structure and Function of the Nervous System: Update on Dietary Requirements for Brain. Part 2: Macronutrients. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.468.728&rep=rep1&type=pdf
 Andrew H. Miller, et.al. (May 2009). Inflammation and Its Discontents: The Role of Cytokines in the Pathophysiology of Major Depression. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2680424/