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Dr Russ Blog - Fish Oils and Depression in the Elderly
Fish Oils and Depression in the Elderly
Created on 10/31/2008

It is an unfortunate fact that symptoms of depression are common amongst senior citizens. There could be many reasons for this, but one not commonly considered has to do with our diets.

Researchers have know for some time that adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids may help improve the symptoms of select mental health disorders like depression or bipolar disease. A recently published study, however, looked at levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the elderly and compared findings against symptoms of depression. Their conclusions are compelling. First, a look at the study.

The trial took place in France and enrolled over 1,000 people whose average age was 74 years, most of whom were women. Questionnaires were completed by the subjects, and determinations of the presence or absence of symptoms of depression were carried out. In addition, plasma levels of fatty acids were measured, including EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), the two main omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils. Over 100 people were found to have significant symptoms of depression. Those with depression had lower levels of EPA in their bodies. Interestingly, for those being treated with an antidepressant, low levels of EPA predicted more severe depression. 

The researchers conclude that higher intakes of foods known to contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as cold water fish, may be associated with less severe symptoms of depression in senior citizens, especially among those already being treated with antidepressants.

Depression is very common in our society, and while common amongst seniors, it is often undiagnosed or not treated adequately enough. To complicate matters, many senior citizens are not eating as healthy a diet as we would like. For ourselves or our loved ones, it appears that adequate intake of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids is not only good for our hearts and blood vessels, but also good for our minds. Enjoy cold water fish at least 2-3 times week, consider spreading a little ground flax seed on your cereal in the morning, and ask your doctor whether a fish oil supplement might be good for you.

Wishing you well.
Dr. Russ

** Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. **

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