The importance of omega-3 fatty acids for psychiatric disorders
The science is emerging and has become fairly compelling that omega-3 fatty acids are critical to health. It is also becoming clear that our consumption of omega-6 fatty acids has detrimental consequences. If you listen to our various interviews on omega fatty acids, you will be convinced, as I am, that the omega-3/omega-6 ratio in your body is perhaps the most important factor in overall health. If you are too low in omega-3 and/or too high in omega-6, you will be at risk for all types on health challenges throughout the body. You cannot correct inflammation without correcting this fundamental balance of essential fats. My personal opinion is that there is no more single important thing you can do for your health than to shift away from omega-6 and increase marine source omega-3, EPA and DHA.
In this interview Dr. Hibbeln will describe some of his research and the important implications for mental health. His research at the time of this interview was to determine if omega-3 fatty acids can reduce suicide behaviors. He also discusses the role of omega-3 for depression and their importance to pregnant and nursing mothers as well as their children.
About Joseph Hibbeln, MD
CAPT Joseph R. Hibbeln M.D is a Clinical Investigator and is Acting Chief, Section on Nutritional Neurosciences in the Laboratory of Membrane Biophysics and Biochemistry at the National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Hibbeln originated the field of omega-3 fatty acids in depressive and aggressive disorders and has contributed more than 80 peer-reviewed scientific papers. With publication of treatment recommendations by the American Psychiatric Association for omega-3 fatty acids in 2006, he has assisted the development of this field from hypothesis through to treatment guidelines. His interests have included the cross-national comparisons of seafood consumption to rates of psychiatric illnesses and epidemiological studies evaluating genetic variants in fatty acid metabolism. Since excessive alcohol use depletes brain stores of DHA this deficiency may significantly contribute to aggression, depression and addictive behaviors common among alcoholics.
His interests include evaluations of benefits and risks of seafood consumption during pregnancy, especially regarding methyl-mercury. Depletion of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy may be a reversible cause of depressions associated with pregnancy. He has calculated the dietary intakes of omega-3 fatty acid required to provide adequate reduction of risk to meet Daily Recommended Intake criteria for 16 illness models. These intakes are adjusted for background intakes of excessive omega-6 fatty acids.
Dr. Hibbeln’s research interests in omega-3 deficiencies have spanned their role in severe pathological states such and suicide, major depression and psychosis to more normal personality traits and emotional states such as neuroticism and unhappiness. Because emotions are central to the fabric of human experience, he has been curious if the psychotropic properties of omega-3 fatty acids influence the cultural symbolism of fish in religious belief systems. He wonders if a substantial proportion of the emotional distress of modern societies can be reversed by adequate intakes of omega-3 fatty acids.
Dr. Hibbeln received a BA with special honors from the University of Chicago in 1983 and an M.D from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1988. He is a Captain in the United States Public Health Service, licensed as a Physician and Surgeon in California and a Board Certified in Psychiatry and Neurology.