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Omega-3 as Psychiatric Elixir?

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Originally published via Armageddon Prose Substack:

We have an omega-6 problem.

I can’t even enjoy the complementary tortilla chips at a Mexican restaurant anymore — my favorite thing about the whole experience — without wondering what I’m doing to myself for the sake of mouth pleasure.

Via Missouri Medicine (emphasis added):

“Marine omega-3s have been consumed by our ancestors for millions of years. Estimates indicate that during the Paleolithic era, the intake of the marine omega-3s eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) was approximately 660–14,250 mg/day, compared to just 100–200 mg/day today. Furthermore, the omega-6/3 ratio has increased from around 4:1 during Paleolithic times to 20:1 today.

Over the last 100 years, the intake of the omega-6 fat linoleic acid in the United States has more than doubled. This is primarily due to the increased consumption of omega-6 rich seed oils, such as soybean, corn, and safflower oil, the latter two having an omega-6/3 ratio of approximately 60:1 and 77:1, respectively. Additionally, since the 1950s, there has been an approximate 2.5-fold increase in linoleic acid stored in adipose tissue in the United States. The increase in the omega-6/3 ratio has paralleled the rise in numerous autoimmune, inflammatory, and allergic diseases. Omega-3s are utilized by the body to resolve and lower inflammation, whereas omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids are primarily used for increasing inflammation.”

Everyone who cherishes the gifts of the internet likely remembers Trigglypuff, the college student, probably a Women’s and Gender Studies major, flapping her blubber with gusto and divine indignation at some long-forgotten crime against Social Justice™ committed by long-forgotten troll Milo Yiannopoulos.

“Easy, girl!” my midwestern Irish-Catholic grandmammy, who, despite her severe demeanor, had a way with animals, would have whispered in her ear. “You’ll blow out your udders carrying on like that, and then we’d be liable to put you out to pasture, because, after all, what good is a dairy cow without her udders?”

It turns out, perhaps, that all the young lady with the obvious metabolic malady may have needed to sedate her was some omega-3, mainlined into her instead of whatever omega-6-laden special with free gravy KFC has on offer on any given day. 

Via New Atlas (emphasis added):

“[A] study by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) found that commonplace omega-3 supplements reduced aggression, regardless of age or gender

The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 29 randomized controlled trials that explicitly measured aggression in people who’d been given omega-3 supplements. They specifically focused on aggressive behavior and not broader traits like anger, which is viewed more as a feeling or emotion, and hostility, which is more of an attitude. Studies where additional nutritional supplements, such as calcium and vitamin D, were included, but the researchers examined them as a potential moderator.

A modest short-term effect linked to omega-3 supplementation, which the researchers say equates to a 30% reduction in aggression, was seen across age, gender, baseline diagnosis, treatment duration and dosage. Notably, omega-3 was found to reduce both reactive and proactive aggression. The researchers were limited to short-term data because only one out of the 19 laboratories conducting the studies followed up with participants after supplementation ended.”

And via Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (emphasis added:

“In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, stratified, parallel-group trial, a community sample of 8–16 year old children were randomized into a treatment group (N = 100) and a placebo-control group (N = 100). The supplementation consisted of a fruit drink containing 1 g/day of omega-3 or a placebo consisting of the same fruit drink without omega-3. Participants, caregivers, and research assistants were blinded to group assignment. The primary outcome measures of externalizing and internalizing behavior problems were reported by both caregivers and their children in a laboratory setting at 0 months (baseline), 6 months (end of treatment) and 12 months (6 months post treatment), together with the secondary outcome measures of parental antisocial behavior…

Significant group × time interactions were observed with the treatment group showing long-term improvements in child behavior problems

Findings provide initial evidence that omega-3 supplementation can produce sustained reductions in externalizing and internalizing behavior problems.”

These kinds of studies documenting omega-3’s beneficial impacts on behavior and emotional health (along with numerous other facets of health) are legion, and widely available online for anyone to peruse.

If I were a pediatrician, omega-3 status would be one of the first issues I looked into via blood panel work before handing out pills like candy. But that’s why I wouldn’t have a license, much less a practice, for very long.

So a rhetorical question for your kid’s doctor might be: While you were jacking my kid up on Adderall and Ritalin and twelve other drugs at the request of his teacher to get him to sit down and shut up in class, why did you never, even in passing, inquire into his omega-3 status?

Then behold the blank stare, a mixture of surprise and confusion and righteous anger at the questioning of the incantations of a licensed priest of The Science™ by a mere illiterate peasant.

Ben Bartee, author of Broken English Teacher: Notes From Exile, is an independent Bangkok-based American journalist with opposable thumbs.

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