Omega-3s Can Reduce Depression Risk, So Load Up On that Spicy Tuna

Omega-3s have been in vogue nutritionally for years now, and people are encouraged to take supplements for a variety of reasons. But researchers in Australia have released evidence that a diet rich in omega-3s can reduce your risk of depression by 25 percent – if you're a woman. And one good source of those nutrients? Tuna fish.

The researchers tracked over 1,400 men and women between the ages of 26 and 35 for five years. The results, as reported by the Daily Mail: "Even after taking into account lifestyle factors such as smoking, weight, exercise, alcohol consumption, education and employment status, a strong link was found between eating fish and incidence of depression [for women]." Two servings of fish per week were correlated with the 25 percent lower risk of depression, and each additional serving per week offered an additional 6 percent lower risk.

Researchers hypothesize that the omega-3s interact somehow with female sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone to improve brain function in a way not possible in men, but the exact mechanism remains a mystery for now. On the other hand, men may be getting more of their omega-3s from meat-containing meals that are less healthy than fish. And, in any case, it's not as simple as "eat a fish and cure depression!" Rather the point is that, over time, a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids will improve the health of your brain, making you less susceptible to psychological troubles. But that healthy diet has got to start somewhere, so if you're worried that you might be prone to depression, choosing tuna today isn't a bad idea (also see a doctor!)

But why tuna, in particular? Tuna is fattier than many other types of seafood, and fats in fish are generally long-chain compared to the fats in meat and other foods. Humans require long-chain fatty acids for proper cellular membrane function in cells throughout the body (which is why omega-3s have such wide-ranging health effects). While our systems can synthesize some amount of long-chain fats from other nutrients, it's more effective to ingest some regularly in one's diet. Other (long-chain) fatty fish choices include mackerel, salmon, and sardines – and these fish offer additional health benefits, beyond depression protection. Although farmed fish are fed some unhealthy fats in the form of vegetable oils, they still retain a healthy balance of long-chain fat content and may be more affordable, so don't let "natural" marketing (and price tags) scare you away from getting your regular dose.