Seafood for Mood Disorders

weight lossSeafood is increasingly being seen as beneficial to mood disorders. The current opinion is that part of this benefit comes from the high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids in seafood. In particular the omega 3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid  (DHA, C22:6 (n-3)) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, C20:5 (n-3)) may have particular mood elevating effects. Omega 3 fatty acids may have particular benefits effects against depression and bipolar disorders. The reason that omega 3 fatty acids may be beneficial against mood disorders is because of the unique structure they possess. The kinked shape of the omega 3 fatty acid molecules increases the fluidity of membranes when the omega 3 fats are incorporated into them. This can have a significant effect on receptors, channels and enzymes to function within the membrane. If this process occurs in the cell membranes of neurones, there may be significant improvements in the efficiency of the neurones and this can play a significant effect on neurochemistry.

seafood anxiety depression

Omega 3 fatty acids can regulate cell function and thereby affect mood. This occurs through three main mechanisms. 1. Regulation of cell membrane fluidity. 2. Activation of anti-inflammatory pathways. 3. Activation of genes that directly influence cell behaviour. Seafood is an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, and this may explain the benefits of high seafood diets in protecting from mood disorders.

Another way in which omega 3 fatty acids can influence mood disorders is through the regulation of cellular processes. The omega 3 fatty acids can be released from cell membranes and pass to the interior of the cell, where they become substrates for lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase enzymes. The products of the reactions catalysed by these enzymes are anti-inflammatory compounds that may regulate cellular inflammation downwards. Inflammation may be a cause of neurodegeneration and is implicated as a factor in the development of mood disorders. Omega 3 fatty acids can also regulate gene expression. This can happen directly through interaction with transcription factors such as the peroxisome-proliferator-activated receptor α and γ and the retinoid X receptor, and also indirectly via activation of second messenger systems in the cell interior such as protein kinases. The effects of omega 3 fats to regulate cell processes and affect mood is therefore well reported.   

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Hegarty, B. D. and Parker, G. B. 2011. Marine omega‐3 fatty acids and mood disorders–linking the sea and the soul. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. 124(1): 42-51

About Robert Barrington

Robert Barrington is a writer, nutritionist, lecturer and philosopher.
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