Controlled human clinical studies have shown that supplementing fish oil can benefit all of the following conditions ordisorders in the area of psychiatry:
- Depressive disorders (bipolar depression, major depressive disorder)
- ADD/ ADHD
- Self harm
Studies in the area of psychiatry allow for some very important insights to be made with regards to comparing the effects of EPA and DHA (the active ingredients in fish oil). The majority of studies in the area use oils much higher in EPA than DHA. Many of the papers in fact use 100% EPA with no DHA present.
Interestingly, studies which fail to show significant benefit in the area of psychiatry use oils which deliver large amounts of DHA with EPA. DHA is extremely important in pregnancy and newborn infants but does not seem to deliver benefit to mood and behaviour. Higher EPA oils appear to effectively treat adult depression and childhood disorders of mood and behaviour. Oils high in DHA typically fail to benefit these same conditions.
Can Cytokines impact Mood and Behaviour?
A number of mechanisms are likely responsible for the observed benefits. Before a human study of benefit is performed a preliminary type of study is conducted. In such an “observational” study, people with a disease or disorder of interest will be compared to a group of otherwise healthy people. Such studies have revealed that people suffering from mood and behaviour disorders have elevated levels of cytokines circulating in their blood. This has been shown for depression, bipolar depression, childhood and adult ADD/ ADHD, anxiety, schizophrenia, and others. Stress has also been shown to increase levels of circulating cytokines.
Many human studies have shown that supplementation with high EPA oils benefit the disorders of mood and behavior listed above. None to date have simultaneously measured cytokine levels while treating with high EPA oils. Studies currently underway have recognized links with cytokines and therefore are measuring them while treating mood and behaviour disorders.