The more fish you eat, the better you feel. That’s the finding of a new study analyzing what science knows about fish and depression. People who ate the most fish had a significantly lower risk of depression than those who ate the least.
The link between diet and depression is a controversial one, but supporting evidence is growing. Last year, a study found that a healthy diet was linked with a lower risk of depression, and this summer, a different study saw that fibrous foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains may help protect against it too.
In the new study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, the researchers wanted to look at the feel-good effects of fish. They analyzed 26 observational studies published between 2001 and 2014. Each of the studies looked at fish consumption and depression—measured by a diagnosis, use of an antidepressant or meeting criteria on a depression rating scale—in a total of 150,278 people. People who ate the most fish had a 17% lower risk of depression than people who ate the least fish.
The biological reasons for this link haven’t yet been determined, and doing so is beyond the scope of this study. A healthier diet overall may be partially responsible, the authors of the paper point out, and the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish might modify dopamine and serotonin.
An expert not involved in the research, Dr. Majid Fotuhi, medical director of NeuroGrow Brain Fitness Center in Virginia and affiliate staff at Johns Hopkins Medicine, says that omega-3 fatty acids are likely having another effect. “I think the reason they’re helping with mood and depression has to do with increasing blood flow,” he says. The ability of omega-3s to reduce inflammation may also play a role in easing depression, he says.
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