You may have heard this, maybe one too many times. Fish oil is good for you. Not only is it good for your body, including your brain, it can also benefit your emotional well-being. A recent study on the benefits of omega 3 in reduction of anxiety came up with some surprisingly good results. The subjects were a group of people you would expect to be dealing with anxiety on a daily basis; medical students.
The team assembled a field of 68 first- and second-year medical students who volunteered for the clinical trial. Half the students received omega-3 supplements while the other half were given placebo pills. The students were randomly divided into six groups, all of which were interviewed six times during the study. At each visit, blood samples were drawn from the students who also completed a battery of psychological surveys intended to gauge their levels of stress, anxiety or depression. The students also completed questionnaires about their diets during the previous weeks.
“The omega-3 supplement the students received was probably about four or five times the amount of fish oil you’d get from a daily serving of salmon,” explained Martha Belury, professor of human nutrition and co-author in the study.
Part of the study, however, didn’t go according to plans.
Changes in the medical curriculum and the distribution of major tests throughout the year, rather than during a tense three-day period as was done in the past, removed much of the stress that medical students had shown in past studies.
“These students were not anxious. They weren’t really stressed. They were actually sleeping well throughout this period, so we didn’t get the stress effect we had expected,” Kiecolt-Glaser said.
But the psychological surveys clearly showed an important change in anxiety among the students: Those receiving the omega-3 showed a 20 percent reduction in anxiety compared to the placebo group. An analysis of the of the blood samples from the medical students showed similar important results.
“We took measurements of the cytokines in the blood serum, as well as measured the productivity of cells that produced two important cytokines, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF?),” said Ron Glaser, professor of molecular virology, immunology & medical genetics and director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.
“We saw a 14 percent reduction in the amounts of IL-6 among the students receiving the omega-3.” Since the cytokines foster inflammation, “anything we can do to reduce cytokines is a big plus in dealing with the overall health of people at risk for many diseases,” he said.
Inflammation is a natural immune response that helps the body heal, but it also can play a harmful role in a host of diseases ranging from arthritis to heart disease to cancer.
Even though the study showed omega-3 supplements can reduce both anxiety and inflammation – and some of the researchers said that they take omega-3 supplements – the researchers aren’t ready to recommend that the public start taking them daily.
“It may be too early to recommend a broad use of omega-3 supplements, especially considering the cost and the limited supplies of fish needed to supply the oil,” Belury said. “People should just consider increasing their omega-3 through their diet.” See original story
The experts that did this study appear concerned about recommending fish oil supplements to avoid a spike in demand. And for good reason: over-harvesting of cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, halibut and other fish rich in omega-3 is a real concern. Yet obtaining omega 3 from the diet on a regular basis has proved impractical for many of us. Taking a fish oil supplement remains the easiest and most practical way for getting this essential oil.
Our choice of fish oil pill comes from the pristine waters of Southern New Zealand, where harvesting is controlled and the fish source population has been declared sustainable.