Mark Antony | 3 min reading | Posted: September 2021
Fish oil supplementation has been shown to be effective at reducing symptoms of depression, specifically when taken by people suffering from major depression. People who eat a lot of fatty fish don’t need to supplement fish oil. Fish oil, derived from fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna, mussels, and trout is high in EPA and DHA. Algal oil is the best alternative for vegetarians and vegans.
What is EPA
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are associated with a variety of health benefits, and preliminary evidence suggests treatment-resistant depression is associated with a low concentration of EPA in the brain.
How It Works
It appears to notably improve mood in people with major depression, though it's unclear if it has an effect in people with minor depression.  EPA, in particular, seems to be the most effective omega-3 fatty acid for this purpose which suggests that the effects of fish oil are due to reducing neuroinflammation. Its anti-inflammatory benefits also seem to extend to reducing the symptoms of systemic lupus erythematosus.
My Personal Opinion
I don't think that we should think of depression as a strict threshold. I'm somebody who personally has made the choice to take a thousand milligrams of EPA per day. I do that by supplementing fish oil.
But for myself, I notice a pretty substantial positive effect of taking anywhere from a thousand milligrams to 1500 mg of EPA per day. I do that through supplementation, and I to try and eat more fish, frankly, I've liked any kind of fish and sea-food.
How To Pick High Quality Fish Oil
Read the label first! In fish oil, krill oil, or any other kind of “omega-3-rich” oil you can think of, the real “active ingredients” that you are taking are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). However, in the supplements you are taking, there are other kinds of fatty acids besides EPA and DHA, including other types of omega-3 fatty acids. This is why in a 2000 mg capsule you may only be getting 720 mg of EPA. If you are trying to take 1400 mg of EPA per day, taking two 2000 mg capsules of fish oil like Life Extension will be sufficient.
Well, if you're somebody who suffers from major depression again, don't stop taking your prescribed medication, talk to your doctor, but talk to them, perhaps about the EPAs and exercise and how these things can impinge on the same biochemical pathways. If you're somebody who's not suffering from major depression, I still think these pathways are really important to understand. And actually knowing these pathways is additional motivation to get regular exercise. I think we all know that we should be getting anywhere from 120 minutes to 180 minutes per week of so-called Zone two cardio for cardiovascular effects. Zone two is the kind of mellowish cardio where you can sort of hold a conversation if you needed to, but it's a little bit tough. If you're kind of breathing for air more intensely a little bit, that's may be going to limit these depressive like symptoms.
For those of you that would like a little more detail or perhaps a lot more detail into the effects of EPA on depression and in relieving depressive symptoms
But it's really the EPA that one wants to hit a certain threshold level of if one's goal is to get relief from depression or to keep depression at bay by keeping mood elevated, which is why you should try EPA.
So we've got EPA, we've got exercise now you understand how they work to adjust mood.
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