Fish oil might be helpful in the treatment and prevention of certain mental health conditions. This is because fish oil contains omega-3 fats, which may affect brain health and the functioning of certain neurotransmitters.
If you’re looking to get more omega-3s in your diet and you’re not a fan of eating fish, you might consider a fish oil supplement. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, over-the-counter (OTC) fish oil supplements are some of the most commonly used dietary supplements (glucosamine and chondroitin, often used for joint pain, are the others).
Mental Health Benefits
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are essential for brain health. They maintain the health of brain cells and help facilitate communication between cells. They are essential during the early development of the brain, but they continue to impact brain health throughout life. Older adults who are deficient in omega-3s show more advanced signs of brain aging, including smaller brain sizes.
Research has shown that fish oil may be useful in treating depression. Studies suggest that either a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids or an imbalance in the ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in the brain may be linked to increased rates of depression. Further, a handful of small but well-designed studies support the use of fish oil as an addition to antidepressant therapy.
Premenstrual syndrome may have both physical and mental symptoms, such as changes in mood. A review of studies found that omega-3 fatty acids could effectively reduce the severity of PMS symptoms, including both somatic (physical) and psychological symptoms.
Other Health Benefits
Arthritis and Autoimmune Diseases
Fish oil has been found to be effective in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) symptoms by reducing morning stiffness, joint tenderness, and the number of swollen joints and regulating the immune response. According to the Arthritis Foundation, fish oil can also be used for knee osteoarthritis, lupus, psoriasis, and Raynaud's syndrome.
Although fish oil can’t prevent a heart attack or stroke, it can reduce some of the risk factors associated with both of these conditions, such as high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
Fish oil can have several health benefits, including protecting and improving mental health. This doesn't mean that taking fish oil is a substitute for medication or therapy. If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition, talk to a healthcare provider.