In this occasional feature on Psych Congress Network, members of the Psych Congress Steering Committee answer questions asked by audience members at Psych Congress meetings.
QUESTION: What do you see as the role of omega-3 for modulating immune activity or inflammation? Do you generally recommend it for everyone, just for certain targeted symptoms, or for those who eat low fish amounts?
ANSWER: The very fact that you asked this question tells me a few important things about your thinking. I congratulate you first for your willingness to look at complementary and alternative options to help our patients.
Omega-3 fatty acids do indeed play a significant role in modulating both immune activity and inflammation. But in addition to that, there’s emerging evidence that individuals who ingest lower amounts of omega-3 fatty acids are at heightened risk of developing depression. The studies with omega-3 have not been universally positive; it appears they may be most effective when inflammation is elevated, and less so in people with normal levels of inflammation.
I do recommend optimized nutrition for everyone, and part of optimized nutrition indeed is to improve the ingestion of omega-3 fatty acids. There are several issues I consider when I make such a recommendation. If I have patients who have had a suboptimal response to classic antidepressants, or if a patient has a personal or strong family history of cardiac disease and/or obesity, I strongly urge them to optimize their nutrition and increase their weekly omega-3 ingestion. There are many sources of omega-3 fatty acids, including cold-water dwelling fish such as tuna and salmon and vegetarian sources such as flaxseed, soy, and walnuts.
Our moms were right—we are what we eat!
— Psych Congress cochair Rakesh Jain, MD, MPH, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Texas Tech Health Sciences Center School of Medicine, Midland
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