Foods for a healthy mind-1: Omega-3 fatty acids

Nutritious food is essential not just for ensuring good health but also for maintaining a healthy mind. Mental health problems that are increasing across the world, generally result from a combination of factors like age, genetics and environmental influences. However, nutrition or food also plays a major role in the development of the brain and/ or mind. According to various studies, food contributes intrinsically in development, management and prevention of specific mental health problems such as depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Alzheimer’s disease.

However, not all kinds of food contribute to good health. The series, “Foods for a healthy mind,” discusses foods such as Omega-3 fatty acids, leafy green vegetables, berries and whole grains that have proven beneficial for maintaining good mental health. While all these food items are known to contribute to good physical health, they also help in easing psychological symptoms.

Importance of omega-3 fatty acids in maintaining good mental health

Omega-3 fatty acids contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which play an important role in maintaining the central nervous system (CNS). While it is a major structural component of the neuronal membranes, EPA has important physiological functions also that can affect neuronal activity. Even though, omega-3 fatty acids are known for offering cardiovascular benefits especially for people with high triglyceride levels, studies have also found them helpful in keeping psychiatric disorders such as depression at bay. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), while epidemiological studies have discovered an association between depression and low dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids, biochemical studies have proven the existence of reduced levels of omega-3 fatty acids in red blood cell membranes in both depressive and schizophrenic patients. “Five of six double-blind, placebo-controlled trials in schizophrenia, and four of six such trials in depression, have reported therapeutic benefit from omega-3 fatty acids in either the primary or secondary statistical analysis, particularly when EPA is added on to existing psychotropic medication,” added NCBI.

Additionally, according to a Norwegian study, which included nearly 22,000 participants, “those who regularly took cod liver oil, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, were about 30 percent less likely to have symptoms of depression than those who did not. The longer the participants took cod liver oil, the less likely they were to have high levels of depression.”

Besides, omega-3 has also been known to reduce symptoms of mood disorders. EPA in omega-3 fatty acids helps in maintaining a good mood. While fish is the richest source of omega-3 fatty acid, flaxseed can also be used as an alternative source.

Apt dosage of omega-3 fatty acids

Of late, the obsession to attain a lean and thin body has led to deficiency of dietary fats in many, including beneficial omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA. As a result, there has been a rise in the number of depression and ADHD cases, as well as other psychiatric disorders. According to research, while the daily recommended intake of omega-3 fatty acids to maintain an optimal health, mood and cognitive function is 1000-2000 mg, North America’s average daily intake is only around 130 mg (including both EPA and DHA). While people suffering with depression or mood disorders, may require a dosage ranging from 1000-4000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, depending upon the severity.

Mental health illnesses require proper treatment

Not only is intake of proper food important to ensure a healthy mind, it is also crucial to pay attention towards the nutritional value of the food. While intake of nutritional food helps in keeping psychiatric disorders at bay, people living with mental health disorders should necessarily seek medical treatment.

If you or your loved one is battling some form of mental disorder, get connected to the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline to learn about the best mental health programs in the U.S. You can call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online to know more about mental health and mental disorders. Our treatment experts can help you get access to the mental health rehabilitation centers in your vicinity.