We have know for decades now that fish oil supplements have been marketed to improve brain health and in some cases prevent conditions such as multiple sclerosis and childhood allergies. So that’s a good enough reason to take a couple of capsules a day isn’t it? But there may also be another reason for adding this supplement to your diet.
There is a growing body of research suggesting that fish oil supplements may be effective in treating chronic stress symptoms. Stress is rapidly becoming one of the largest health concerns in our lives today. When we are continually exposed to stressful situations there is a continuous activation of the brain’s nervous system which causes wear-and-tear throughout the body over time. In fact many of the symptoms are similar to those of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD.) It has been reported that people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder have been able to curb symptoms including depression, aggression and anxiety by taking regular does of fish oil.
PTSD was thought to be a social ailment, however, a few decades ago this analysis was proven to be incorrect and PTSD is now known to be driven by biological and chemical processes in the brain. When a person experiences a traumatic event, the brain releases the stress hormone cortisol, which affects the transmission of glutamate, a neurotransmitter than plays a large role in memory, learning, and cognitive abilities.
Omega-3 was first linked to an improvement in PTSD symptoms in a 2005 study of ER patients who were put on a fish oil regimen directly after a traumatic accident. The patients who received the fish oil were significantly less likely to develop PTSD in the months following the accident. Omega-3 was found to boost the regeneration of neurons in the hippocampus and amygdala, the two areas of the brain most commonly associated with chronic stress and PTSD.
Following on from the 2011 earthquake in Japan that killed around 16,000 people a new study was initiated and once again the addition of fish oil seemed to have a significant effect on repairing the brain.
In a study published this month in the journal of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, the researchers from John’s Hopkins and University of Tokyo wanted to know if the results from the previous two studies could be applied to a wider population.
They analyzed the data from 172 of rescue workers from the 2011 earthquake in Japan who were given fish oil and compared it with the general population of nearly 11,000 Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) members.
The results revealed that:-
- Female rescue workers who took the standard dose of fish oil scored significantly lower on the Impact Event Scale, which is widely used to assess people for PTSD.
- Among men, the supplement was not found to have any significant impact.
The authors concluded that, while their results indicate that fish oil could help treat PTSD in women, more research is needed to determine its effectiveness in the general population.