If you are on top of the latest nutrition news, you are sure to find some information about the extraordinary benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Long chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are found in the fatty tissue of cold-water fish, and algae (good source of DHA). Short-chain omega-3 fatty acids, ALA, are plentiful in flax, walnuts, and canola. While consuming both long-chain and short-chain fatty acids has a myriad of health benefits, much research focuses on the long-chain. DHA and EPA have especially been found to help treat anxiety and inflammation.
Ohio State University researchers set out to prove just how amazing DHA and EPA really are. In a study published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, they demonstrated how a combination of EPA and DHA reduces systemic inflammation, which is a trigger for health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Interestingly enough, they also found a link between omega 3′s and a reduction in anxiety.
Previous Research Reveals Great Things About Omega- 3′s
Scientists at Ohio State reviewed over thirty years of research. The review indicated a link between psychological stress and immunity. While it is well accepted that omega 3 fatty acids have a positive influence on overall health, including aging, previous research suggests that they may also reduce the level of cytokines in the body. Cytokines are compounds that encourage inflammation and possibly promote depression.
Since cytokine production is elevated when the body is in a state of psychological stress, researchers hypothesized that adding omega-3 to the diet may discourage stress and reduce inflammation at the same time.
A group of 68 first and second year medical students were split into six groups. Half of the participants received omega 3 supplements while the other half received a placebo. Each group was interviewed 6 times during the study and blood samples were taken. Participants filled out surveys to determine levels of stress and depression. In addition, information regarding diet was also collected.
The students were supposed to be at an increased chance for stressful feelings due to exams, but this was not the case due to a change in curriculum. Surprisingly, the psychological studies showed a 20% reduction in anxiety among the students who received the supplement compared to those who received the placebo. The blood tests indicated a 14% reduction in one particular cytokine. Although more research is needed, this study is promising as to the impact that omega-3 fatty acids have on stress reduction and inflammation.