Anxiety disorders form a category of mental health diagnosis that causes worry, apprehension, fear, and nervousness. It can appear as a standalone anxiety disorder or as part of another mental disorder like depression.
Pharmacological interventions like serotonin reuptake inhibitors can treat anxiety. However, individuals with anxiety disorders refrain from taking these medications, as they are often concerned about the dependence and side effects.
Other options for treating anxiety include taking therapies both mental and physical. But they can be a time-consuming and costly affair.
1 in every 5 adults in the United States is said to develop anxiety disorder every year and the numbers can be different in other countries. Hence, finding a cost-effective, safe way to manage anxiety would be of great benefit for millions of people.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Anxiety
Omega-3 is a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), and of these, Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the most important.
The health professionals at Yes Wellness consider Omega-3 fats as ‘essential’ because the body does not produce them naturally. Instead, they must be consumed in the form of supplements or in the diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids are most commonly found in fish oil. Fish oil is harvested from oily fishes like salmon, tuna, and mackerel among others. Another source of omega-3 fats is krill oil, however, it is relatively expensive than fish oil.
Thus, an alternate option involves omega-3 health supplements. The omega-3 supplements can make it easy to accomplish the desired dose for people suffering from anxiety and avoid the inconvenience or smell of regularly cooking fish.
Over the years, scientists have ascribed a wide range of health benefits to fish oil, but not all are supported by evidence.
Hints from Dietary Study
In recent years, some researchers have tested omega-3 fats’ potential to help in the treatment of psychiatric symptoms and conditions including anxiety disorders.
Experiments investigating the anti-anxiety effects of EPA and DHA in animal models have seen some success.
An experiment involving rats found that PUFA-rich diet reduced anxiety-like behaviors.
A study involving 7,903 participants who were studied over two years found out that more than 300 cases of anxiety were experienced by the participants.
The study involved each participant recording their diet and they all completed the questionnaires designed to highlight their depressive conditions (if they had any).
By cross-referencing these situations, it was found that participants who included fish in their diet experienced minimum to zero occurrences of anxiety cases. Moreover, participants who consumed higher volumes of oily fish as compared to other participants were found to be 30% less likely to suffer from any mental condition including depression, stress, and anxiety.
Another study conducted addressed the issue from a different perspective, comparing the level of omega-3 fats in ‘clinically’ depressed individuals with those of mentally fit participants. Surprisingly, the result was the same, with depressed participants indicating lower levels of omega-3 fats.
Although all these studies don’t prove that the low consumption of omega-3 fats causes conditions like depression or anxiety, it at least helps to find a relationship between these two.
The Reaction on Anxiety of Supplementing with Omega-3 Fats
Omega-3 fatty acids have gained popularity in the recent few years due to the surplus of benefits they seem to offer our health. Omega-3 PUFAs have been known to reduce inflammation in the body. Moreover, consuming omega-3 fats can help reduce many risk factors associated with heart disease and positively affect discomfort from inflammatory joint conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, and can also impact the brain function.
The evidence, so far, is convincing. Frequent studies have found that low consumption of omega-3 fats is associated with an increased risk of depression and anxiety. Moreover, it has been revealed that topping up omega-3 fats in the body, either through greater consumption of oily fish or through supplementation, seem to improve the experience of anxiety.
But how does it really work?
Doctors are yet to uncover the depths of depressive syndromes like anxiety. The research is enduring, however, based on the studies and findings; there are multiple mechanisms through which depressive conditions are believed to ascend.
Serotonin found in our body acts as a neurotransmitter but serves a number of purposes. It notably helps in transmitting messages along the nerves and to the brain. It also has an effect on the blood vessels. It means that even a slight imbalance could lead to feelings of sweating, of being flushed, and even muscle tremors. Many health professionals believe that the numerous symptoms that fall under depressive syndromes are caused, at least in part, by an imbalance in the serotonin levels.
Omega-3 fats have been vigorously tested in labs and have shown to be both safe and beneficial for many health conditions including anxiety. However, scientists are more inclined towards finding a direct connection.