Flax Seeds, Depression and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Below you’ll find excerpts and links to a series of published health articles discussing the benefits and impact flax seeds and the omega-3s they provide can have in fighting depression.

Heart Healthy Flax Seeds Combat Depression

Excerpt from the The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science website…emerging research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may be of therapeutic value in the treatment of depression…Omega-3 fatty acids play a critical role in the development and function of the central nervous system. Emerging research is establishing an association between omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic, eicosapentaenoic, docosahexaenoic) and major depressive disorder. Evidence from epidemiological, laboratory and clinical studies suggest that dietary lipids and other associated nutritional factors may influence vulnerability and outcome in depressive disorders. Research in this area is growing at a rapid pace. The goal of this report is to integrate various branches of research in order to update mental health professionals.

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Omega-3 fatty acids in mood disorders

Recent scientific findings suggests that flax seeds may be able to help with mood and depression in addition to some of its other documented health benefits. At the 2007 annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society in Budapest, Hungary Dr. Sarah M. Conklin, a postdoctoral scholar in the department of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine reported that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, found in salmon and flax seed may affect parts of the brain related to emotion.

Conklin and her colleagues found in a study group of 55 participants that the volume of gray matter in the human brain, particularly the parts associated with mood, was proportional to the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids.

Previously, researchers had found that participants with lower blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids were more likely to be impulsive and have a negative outlook, while those with higher blood levels were more agreeable and less likely to report mild or moderate symptoms of depression.
Pound for pound flax seed contains more omega-3 fatty acids than any other natural source and contains about 3 times as much as an equivalent weight of salmon.

Additional Resources:

Omega-3 fatty acids in mood disorders. in the 2005 Japanese Journal of Seishin Shinkeigaku Zasshi.  < abstract >

SUMMARY: The peripheral level of EPA and DHA decrease in patients with major depression, and EPA is useful for its treatment. Further research is required on omega-3 fatty acids in patients with mood disorders.

* Please note: Depression is a serious illness and you should not try to treat it on your own. See a doctor for help.