Is a Lack of Fat in Your Diet Making You Depressed?

As you have heard us say time and again, the food you put in your body can have a profound impact on the way you feel! Not only is this related to physical symptoms, but mental as well. Believe it or not, your food intake can distinctly affect how you feel each day.

I was recently reading a women’s magazine at the hair salon and found an interesting article regarding the role of omega-3 fatty acids in lifting your mood and reducing the symptoms of depression. The article said, “Researchers are not sure why, but people who eat a diet rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids seem to suffer less depression…” They went on to say, “No one is recommending fish-oil supplements as antidepressants, but it couldn’t hurt to include fish on your menu at least twice a week.”

Fats feed the brain! Omega-3 fatty acids appear to be effective alternatives to drug therapies for some people as was shown in a Harvard Study, (Archives of General Psychiatry 1999;56:407). The mechanism of action is thought to be stabilization of the lipid based (fat containing) cell membrane, the transduction of nerve signals across it, and calcium channel blockade.

Interestingly enough, the dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids has dramatically declined in Western countries such as the US over the last century. The current omega-6 fats to omega-3 ratio is up to 20:1. What does that mean? The ideal dietary ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 has been recommended by an international panel of lipid experts to be approximately 2:1. So we are definitely not meeting that mark as a country!

Why the imbalance?

Some postulate that introduction of omega-6 rich oils into the food supply, either directly or through animal raising practices, has contributed significantly to this problem.

Did you know that about 20% of the dry weight of the brain is made up of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and that one out of every three fatty acids in the central nervous system (CNS) are PUFAs? You can see why fat is so important to the brain!

Because some people consume a large amount of vegetable oils that have high omega-6 to omega-3 ratios, it is possible that this may be contributing to some of their symptoms, especially given the above study results that shows that omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve depression symptoms.

How do I get more Omega-3 fatty acids in my diet?

Include foods in your diet such as:

• fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna,and salmon
• nuts and seeds such as flax seeds walnuts
• soybeans such as tofu, soybeans, and soy nuts
• oils including canola, flax, walnut, and soybean oils

A diet rich in omega-3 foods can produce many beneficial effects on the body, in addition to helping with depression. Here are a few:

• Reduces inflammation throughout your body
• Helps keep your blood thin and clotting properly
• Help lower the amount of blood fats, such as cholesterol and triglycerides
• Helps improve the body’s ability to respond to insulin which may help regulate weight
• Helps lubricate joints

Do I need to change anything else in my diet?

Aside from the fatty acid issue, we have found that our depressed patients who eat lots of carbohydrates, caffeine, and sugar, tend to have worse depression-related symptoms. If you have these cravings or feel like you must consume these foods each day, we recommend that you get tested and treated for possible low blood sugar.

The fluctuating high and low swings in blood sugar can produce anxiety, depression, irritability, and a sense of loss of control. The condition is very common. The best way to figure this out is by getting Diet Typing. Not only will you find out if you are hypoglycemic, but you will also find out what balance of carbs, protein, and fats is best for your body. Providing your body with the inappropriate fuel adds stress to your system and does not maximize energy production so that all cells can function optimally. You’d be amazed at the results we get just by changing a person’s diet! Don’t underestimate the power of eating right for your Diet Type!

Other factors

If symptoms of depression cycle with the menstrual period, women should get hormone testing. Cycle-related imbalances are easily and safely corrected with natural hormone replacement therapy. We find that chronic depression in women may be due to estrogen deficiency. It can be seen in both pre and post-menopausal women. Other signs that this might be a problem include sparse periods, hot flashes, decreased libido, small breast size, narrow hips, and unwanted facial hair. One interesting fact I read was that half of all women who attempt suicide have below normal estrogen levels, and most attempts occur during the first week of the menstrual cycle when estrogen levels are lowest. Natural hormone replacement is something to look into if you suspect this might be contributing to your depression. Women who are nearing menopause age often experience rapid changes in mood and perceived anxiety. Just know that this may be due to a sudden drop in your hormone levels. No, you are not going crazy!

As we age

Depression in the elderly can be due to low levels of growth hormone, sex hormones, or adrenal hormones, in addition to vitamin and mineral imbalances, especially B12 deficiency and fatty acid imbalances, related to inadequate dietary intake and lower digestive and absorptive functions of the GI tract. So if you or a loved one seems to be more depressed with age, these are factors that should be examined as well.

Dr. Hauser has worked with many people with depression for many years and provides good insight by delving into all areas that might be contributing to your depression. Don’t suffer silently. There is help available! If you are interested in a consultation, give us a call!