The thought of cod liver oil may not make you smile-but taking it might, as a new study suggests that it can prevent depression.
Depression affects an estimated 2 to 6% of the US population, causing symptoms such as unhappy and hopeless feelings, loss of interest in activities, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, fatigue, and inability to concentrate.
A variety of nutritional factors can affect mood and risk of depression. One study reported that reducing sugar and caffeine intake led to improved mood, although other studies have found that caffeine can have a positive influence. Specific nutrient deficiencies, including folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin D, have all been implicated as contributors to depression.
The omega-3 fatty acids from fish, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), have been receiving attention recently for their potential antidepressant effects. Depressed people have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids than people without depression, and there is some evidence that eating fish and supplementing with fish oil might relieve depression.
The latest study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, took place in Norway and included data from a larger survey of almost 19,000 people between ages 40 and 49 and 2,848 people between ages 70 and 74.
Nearly 9% of those surveyed reported using cod liver oil daily. These people had fewer symptoms than people who didn´t take cod liver oil, and their depression risk diminished with the length of time they had been taking it. Those who had used cod liver oil for more than nine months had the lowest level of depressive symptoms-about 30% lower than people who had not used cod liver oil in the past year.
"These findings, along with previous evidence, should encourage healthcare practitioners to recommend cod liver oil to their patients with depressive symptoms," commented Dr. Chris Hollis, a naturopathic doctor practicing in Vermont. "And they might even tempt people to try a teaspoonful."
(J Affective Disorders 2007;101:245-9)
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor´s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.