Recent research links omega-3 fats with benefits for mood and behaviour

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Previously on this site I have written about the relationship between the so-called ‘omega-3’ and their association with benefits for the brain including a reduced risk of depression and dementia. Recently, a study published in the journal Psychiatry Research examined the relationship between blood levels of omega-3 fats and certain measures of mood, personality and behaviour [1].

In this study, the researchers, based at the University of Pittsburgh in the USA, measured the blood levels of the three main types of omega-3 fats found in food: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA); eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA); and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is found is plant foods such as nuts and seeds (especially flaxseed), while DHA and EPA are found most plentifully in ‘oily’ fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, herring and sardine. Participants in the study completed questionnaires that assessed personality, as well as symptoms of depression and impulsiveness.

  • The study found that:Higher levels of EPA and DHA were associated with significantly reduced risk of symptoms of depression and neuroticism
  • Higher DHA levels were associated with higher scores of ‘agreeableness’.
  • Higher DHA and ALA levels were associated with lower scores of ‘impulsivity’

Studies of this nature can show ‘associations’ between things (in this case, blood omega-3 levels and improved mood/personality/behaviour) but do not prove that the one is actually causing the other.

However, as I have pointed out before, work has been done which suggests that omega-3 fats have important roles to play in the structure and function of the brain. With this in mind, there is I think ever-growing evidence to suggest that keeping up a good intake of omega-3 fats in the diet may help to maintain mental health and psychological ‘balance’.


1. Conklin SM, et al. Serum omega-3 fatty acids are associated with variation in mood, personality and behavior in hypercholesterolemic community volunteers. Psychiatry Research 2007 Mar 22; [Epub ahead of print]

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