CENTER ON BEHAVIORAL MEDICINE
BODY- MIND CONNECTION
Essential Nutrients: Background Information
graciously given by the author to reproduce this paper
Article written by David Puchol Esparza
Psychologist and Naturopath
Clinical Applications of Essential Fatty Acids In Psychiatric Disorders
David Puchol Esparza
Fats, Essential Fatty Acids & Mental Health
Confusion and misconceptions about fat are very common. Although much attention has been focussed on the need to reduce dietary fat, the body does need fat. While avoiding a high saturated fat diet can be beneficial, there are some essential fats that are extremely important for healing and maintaining good health. These are "good" fats that are as necessary for mental health as vitamins or minerals.
To understand how fat intake is related to psychiatric disorders, it is necessary to understand the different types of fats available and the ways in which these fats act within the body and their influence on mental health....
01.-Saturated Fatty Acids are found primarily in animal and dairy products such as whole milk, cheese and cream, and fatty meats like beef, veal, ham, lamb and pork. Some vegetable products including palm kernel oil or coconut oil are also high in saturated fatty acids. The liver uses saturated fats to manufacture cholesterol.
02.-Monounsaturated Fatty Acids are found in vegetable and nut oils such as olive, canola and peanut. These fats appear to reduce blood levels of LDLs without affecting HDLs in any way.
03.-Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (Essential Fatty Acids) are found in greatest abundance in soybean, safflower, corn and sunflower oils. Certain fish oils are also high in polyunsaturated fats. Unlike the saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats may actually lower our total blood cholesterol level. There are two basic categories of Essential Fatty Acids, Omega-3 and Omega-6...
Essential Fatty Acids that our bodies cannot create without first
them from food. The omega-3 fatty acids include alpha-linolenic acid (
3.2.-Gamma-Linolenic Acid (an Omega-6 Fatty Acid) is the other major category of Essential Fatty Acids. Omega-6 Fatty Acids are found in the plant seed oils of evening primrose, borage, black currant, and fungal oils. Arachidonic acid of the omega-6 series is found in egg yolk, organ meats and other animal-based foods.
The balance of Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acid and Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acid should be four or five Omega 6 to each Omega-3 for a good balance. We get ample amounts of Omega-6 in the typical Western diet. The ratio in this diet is between 10 and 20 to 1 in favor of Omega 6, far too high in Omega-6.This imbalance leads to many serious physical and mental problems. To help achieve the healthier balance, a person eating a typical western diet should reduce consumption of saturated fats and increase consumption of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Essential Fatty Acids.
The Role of Essential Fatty Acids in Psychiatric Disorders
There is an increasing body of evidence that indicates that fish oils, in particular those with high EPA to DHA ratios, have a major role to play in helping people maintain good mental health and to avoid the mood swings, mild depression and general fatigue many people experience on a regular basis. According to researchers at an international conference sponsored by the National Institutes of Health there is evidence which suggests that higher consumption of Essential Fatty Acids in fish, particularly Omega-3, appear to be linked to a lower risk for Depression and better treatment of Manic Depression and Schizophrenia.
For years, investigators have been exploring the link between depression and diet, especially the association between the incidence of depression and fish consumption. Fish and some land-based foods are rich in Omega-3,a nutritional building block critical for the healthy development and functioning of the brain and nervous system.
According to Horrobin "The level of prostaglandin E1 (which are made in the brain from Omega 3 and 6 Essential Fatty Acids) is of crucial importance to the body. A fall in the level of PGE in the brain will lead to a potentially catastrophic series of untoward consequences including increased vascular reactivity, elevated cholesterol production, diabetic-like changes in insulin release, enhanced risk of auto-immune disease, enhanced risk of inflammatory disorders, and susceptibility to depression."
Clinical Applications of Essential Fatty Acids : Scientific Evidences
Here are some basic facts about Essential Fatty Acids and Mental Health.
01.-Epidemiological studies in various countries suggest that decreased n-3 fatty acid consumption correlates with the increasing rates of depression. Long chain –3 polyunsaturated deficiency may also contribute to depressive symptoms in alcoholism, multiple sclerosis and post-partum depression just as n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid may reduce coronary artery disease (Hibbeln & Salem,1995).
02.-It has been hypothesized that depletion of cell membrane n3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), particularly docosahexanoic acid (DHA), may be of etiological importance in depression. They measured the fatty acid composition of phospholipid in cell membranes from red blood cells (RBC) of 15 depressive patients and 15 healthy control subjects. Depressive patients showed significant depletions of total n3 PUFA and particularly DHA. Incubation of RBC from control subjects with hydrogen peroxide abolished all significant differences between patients and controls these findings suggest that red blood cells membranes in depressive patients show evidence of oxidative damage (Peet et al.,1998).
observed significantly lower levels of EPA (by about 42%), DHA (by
total Omega-3 Fatty Acids (by 23-28%) in the plasma phospholipids phase
patients with Alzheimer’s disease, other dementia and cognitive
(non-demented) than in the normal controls. Other research has
association between low DHA and EPA levels and impaired cognitive
Other studies have found that fish oil supplementation improves sleep,
appetite, cooperation and short-term memory in AD patients. The
studies have found a clear correlation between a low intake of EPA and
the prevalence of depression. In two studies of population groups in
The epidemiological studies and scientific research so far indicate that Essential Fatty Acids are necessary for our mental and physical health. Scientific studies suggest that by increasing our consumption of certain ‘good’ fats found in fish, walnuts and flaxseed oil, we may improve the symptoms of a number of psychiatric disorders, including Depression, Schizophrenia and Manic-Depressive Illness.
Canadian researchers like Dr. Allan Logan says that in societies where fish is the primary protein consumed, the incidence of Depression and Bipolar Disorders is considerably lower than in cultures where bovine protein is a core staple. Recent studies, according to Dr. Logan, draw links to Alzheimer's disease, ADD, Autism, Schizophrenia, Hostility, Anxiety and Bipolar Disorder.
According to Haag (2003) "The ratio of membrane omega-3 to omega-6 PUFAs can be modulated by dietary intake. This ratio influences neurotransmission and prostaglandin formation, processes that are vital in the maintenance of normal brain function. (...) The ratio of dietary omega-3 to omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in the average Western diet needs to be increased for optimal mental health. Eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DPA) have potential in the treatment of psychiatric disease.(...).It is important that the public, dieticians, the medical profession, and policy-makers in charge of nutrition programs be conscious of this recommendation and work toward ensuring an adequate daily DHA-plus-EPA intake by the population."
Epidemiological data and scientific evidences suggesting significant efficacy of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in the prevention and treatment of numerous psychiatric disorders has been emerging worldwide. Several important clinical studies with Omega-3 Fatty Acids on psychiatric disorders like Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s Disease or Depression are ongoing and the results of these studies may add new modalities and therapeutic options to the present treatment of these devastating mental diseases.
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