Omega 3 and Mental Health

By Professor Kevin Gournay


Several years ago, Colin Hammond the founder of No Panic,  drew my attention to an article concerning the work of Professor Puri of the Hammersmith Hospital and Imperial College and I thought that the focus of Dr Puri’s work might prove to be interesting for readers.

To begin, one needs to look back 20 years or so to research conducted on brain metabolism, which demonstrated that a number of essential fatty acids called Omega 3 seemed to be associated with better mental health. These fatty acids are found in fish and it was noted that in communities that consumed fish in high quantities, there was a lower incidence of mental illness. Omega 3 is made up of substances that are responsible for the health function of membranes in the brain and body. The benefits of Omega 3 have, of course, been clear in respect of cardiac health for many years, but an increasing amount of evidence has now demonstrated that Omega 3 seems to benefit people who suffer from depression and schizophrenia. Indeed, there have been a number of studies that demonstrate this, leading to many psychiatrists advocating Omega 3 treatments, particularly in depression. Professor Puri believes that the most important component of Omega 3 is a substance known as EPA and that EPA needs to be in a special form, called Ethyl EPA. Should the reader wish to learn more about the use of EPA, they should refer to the book by Puri and Boyd, published in 2005 and entitled The Natural Way to Beat Depression: the groundbreaking discovery of EPA to change your life. This is published by Hodder Mobius, London.

Professor Puri has carried out research that shows, using brain scanning techniques, that brain structure and chemistry improve while taking Ethyl EPA. Ethyl EPA is available as an over-the-counter supplement called VegEPA and Professor Puri states that this preparation is completely free of any toxins that may contaminate ordinary fish oils.

I believe that because the evidence concerning EPA and good mental health is so clear and seems to be a proven treatment in depression at least, it logically follows that people with anxiety disorders might derive benefit from taking such a supplement. In my opinion, the evidence that there suggests that taking a supplement in reasonable doses would do no harm, but might possibly do you a great deal of good. I, therefore, think that it is worth trying. We of course await the outcome of the use of Omega 3 preparations research on people with anxiety states.

Professor Kevin Gournay is an Emeritus Professor at the Institute of Psychiatry. He has more than 35 years of experience and is the author of more than 130 articles and books. He is based in Cheshunt Hertfordshire.

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3 thoughts on “Omega 3 and Mental Health”

  1. Professor Stoll of harvard university conducted a study in 1999 that gave credence to the idea of using Omega 3 supplementation in diets of individuals afflicted with mental disorders, particularly bipolar, depressive disorder, and schizophrenia. DSM IV and V suggest a treatment plan involving anti-pyschotics and mood stabilizers where his approach involves cognitive behavioural therapy, diet plans rich in this essential fatty acids, and the usual cocktail of drugs. I’ve been using his methods in addition to my medication to help counter the side effects of anti-pyschotic drugs for my bipolar type 1 and it has worked for me. I believe in the research and the evidence is clear cut.

  2. Good article. I have heard many anecdotal accounts of Omega 3 being used to successfully treat depression. In any case, supplementation is relatively cheap and there are zero known side-effects, so it makes absolute sense to use the supplement.

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