The omega-3 fatty acid alpha linolenic acid (ALA, C18:3 (n-3)) is an essential fatty acid required by human for health. Alpha linolenic acid is metabolised to a number of hormone like substances called eicosanoids, and these have a wide range of effects on cell function. A deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids will eventually lead to death, but along this path there lies a number of chronic diseases and disorders that are attributable to an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency. A number of mood disorders including anxiety and depression may be caused by a deficiency of essential fatty acids. For example, in one study researchers investigated the effects of an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency in mice. The researchers isolated two groups of mice to induce stress and then monitored their behaviour. Mice that were deficient in omega-3 fatty acids were more likely to show anxious behaviour when isolated, when compared to mice that were not deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, suggesting the deficiency enhanced the susceptibility of the mice to stress.
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