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Can low DHA levels cause depression?
Epidemiological studies (which examine large populations as a whole) find that people in societies which lack fish in the diet suffer from increased rates of depression. Also, recall the earlier discussion of post-partum depression, where a new mother may feel depressed after giving birth. Some experts believe the cause may be due to a depletion of DHA from neuron membranes, the mother's DHA having gone to the fetus for its neural development. Another condition that depletes DHA from brain-cells is alcoholism, with its resulting episodes of depression. Thus, the association between low levels of DHA and depression appears to be real.
A study measuring the DHA levels of depressed people was conducted by Dr. R. Edwards at Northern General Hospital, Sheffield, England. Indeed, he found their red blood cells to be depleted of DHA. Earlier studies correlated the severity of the depression and the ratio ARA to EPA in red blood cells. The worse the depression, the more ARA was present in the blood cells compared to EPA. The researchers suggest increasing this ratio by supplementing with EPA and DHA may be a beneficial strategy in treating depression.
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