Military personnel are committing suicide in record numbers — a true national tragedy. Obviously there are many causes, known and unknown. Now, a team of researchers from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, says that a little-recognized cause may be a nutritional deficiency DHA — the omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil.
The researchers studied 1,600 U.S. military personnel, half of whom had committed suicide. Among men, those with low levels of DHA in their blood were 62% more likely to have committed suicide — making it an even higher risk factor than having seen wounded or dead comrades in the war, which raised risk by 52%.
Why would low levels of DHA increase suicide risk? It's because the brain is largely made of DHA, and when DHA is low, the brain doesn’t work as well. Depression is one of the symptoms of poor brain functioning — and depressed people are more likely to commit suicide. (Earlier studies have found that the risk of postpartum depression dropped dramatically in women who increased DHA levels by consuming fish oil during pregnancy.)
Bottom Line: Add Fish Oil to Your Diet
The bottom line is that whether you're on the front lines of war or the front lines of pregnancy or a stressful life, taking DHA (found in fish oil) can optimize mood and decrease your risk of depression.
Eating 3-4 servings of tuna, salmon, sardines, or herring is an excellent way to get a healthy amount of fish oils. If you don't eat a lot of fish, you can take a high-efficiency fish oil supplement instead.
"Suicide deaths of active-duty US military and omega-3 fatty-acid status: a case-control comparison," Lewis MD et. al., J Clin Psychiatry. 2011 Aug 23. [Epub ahead of print]
Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.