Eating Salmon Helps With Depression

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Omega-3s are a unique type of polyunsaturated fatty acid that are abundant in fish and shellfish. The two
main seafood omega-3s are EPA* and DHA*. These omega-3s benefit heart health, the immune system and
brain function, and are essential for infant brain growth and development. DHA is highly concentrated in the brain and retina where it participates in vision, communication between cells, nerve impulse transmission, and the protection of brain cells. Details of how these fatty acids affect mental function are beginning to emerge. In several mental disorders, these omega-3s are significantly below those observed in healthy people.



Serious mental disorders affect about one in 17 American adults and are the leading cause of disability in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Major depressive disorder—a prolonged period of feeling low or hopeless—affects about 14 million Americans at any given time. The condition interferes with a person’s ability to work, sleep, eat and experience pleasure and can be disabling.


Depression is most common in countries with the lowest consumption of seafood, such as the U.S. and Germany. It occurs least often in countries such as Japan, Korea and Iceland, where seafood consumption is high. But this observation does not mean that low seafood consumption causes depression. However, we are learning that the omega-3s in fish may be helpful in treating patients with depression. Several studies in patients being treated medically for depression reported marked improvement in patients’ symptoms when small amounts of EPA were added to the treatment. Doses of 1 to 2 grams of EPA/day were more effective than larger amounts and were without harmful side effects. Results also suggest that EPA is more effective than DHA. How EPA might bring about these improvements is not known. While these results are encouraging, much more information from larger rigorous studies is needed before we can consider these findings conclusive.

Top 10 Heart Health Benefits from Eating Wild Salmon



Decrease the chance of dying from heart disease

Much evidence has shown that eating fatty fish regularly lowers the likelihood of heart disease mortality by as much as 36%. This effect is mainly due to the omega-3 fatty acids in seafood.

Reduce the chance of sudden death

Nearly half of all deaths from heart disease occur suddenly, before a person reaches help. Most sudden
heart deaths come from uncontrolled rapid heart rhythms. Omega-3s from fish help prevent this type of fatality. Besides improving heart rhythms, seafood omega-3s improve other electrical properties of the heart, such as heart rate.

Reduce the chance of stroke

Blood clots that develop in the brain or are carried to the brain from elsewhere cause strokes and serious disability. They can be fatal. Some, but not all, studies suggest that people who eat fish regularly are less likely to develop strokes.

Lower chance of a second heart attack and non-fatal heart events

In people who have already had a heart attack, the likelihood of developing a second heart attack is significantly lower with regular fish or omega3 fatty acid consumption. The development of other heart disorders, such as unstable angina (sharp chest pains), the need for coronary by-pass graft surgery or stents is also lower in patients who took EPA, a purified seafood omega-3. Eating fatty fish is also linked to a lower occurrence of heart failure, a weakened heart.

Improve the pattern of lipids in the blood

Seafood omega-3s can dramatically lower the amount of blood fats (triglycerides) in blood, reducing the chance of a heart attack. People with type 2 diabetes and certain types of heart disease can have very high levels of blood triglycerides and eating fatty fish or seafood omega-3s is one of the best ways to lower these fats. Seafood omega-3s do not lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels and may raise them modestly.

Improve “good” cholesterol or HDL levels

People who have higher levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol in their blood are less likely to develop heart disease or heart failure. HDL helps remove cholesterol from the blood vessels where it can be harmful and has anti-inflammatory, anti-blood clotting and antioxidant effects. Regularly eating fish or the omega-3s from them helps boost blood levels of HDL cholesterol.

Lower blood pressure

High blood pressure or hypertension increases the chance of heart disease and stroke. Eating fish or seafood omega-3s regularly may lower blood pressure modestly. Higher doses of seafood omega-3s, in the range of 3 to 4 grams/day may be needed to reduce blood pressure. The effect of omega-3s can be improved by limiting salt (sodium) intake, achieving and keeping a healthy body weight and exercising at least 3 times a week.

Lower chance of blood clots

Blood clotting helps heal injuries, but if the blood clots too readily, it can block a blood vessel, especially one clogged with plaque. When this happens a stroke, heart attack or death can result. The omega-3s from fish reduce the tendency to form blood clots and improve blood flow. Recent studies have shown that seafood omega-3s enhance the effectiveness of anti-platelet drugs, including aspirin. Omega-3s also make red blood cells more flexible, improving circulation through small blood vessels.

Better blood vessel function

Our arteries do more than send blood around the body. Their cells are miniature chemical factories making substances that affect blood flow, artery wall flexibility and inflammation. With the omega-3s from fish, arteries are more elastic and less likely to promote the formation of blood clots. The cells lining the arteries produce less inflammatory substances and more products that limit inflammation when seafood omega3s are present. As a result, blood flow, blood pressure and inflammation are improved.

More stable arterial plaques

One of the riskiest aspects of heart disease is the build-up of deposits or plaques in the blood vessels going to the heart and brain. These plaques begin in childhood and are the early stages of atherosclerosis. As the plaques grow larger they are more likely to break apart starting a chain of events that can lead to heart failure. There is emerging evidence that the omega-3s from fish help make these plaques more stable and less likely to rupture. More work is needed, however, to confirm the initial findings. In some studies, the amount of plaque decreases with fish oil consumption, easing blood flow and reducing the chance
of stroke or heart attack.


Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute 2010