To investigate the link between oily fish and depression, researchers at the University of Tokyo analyzed the diets and rates of depression in more than 6,500 Japanese junior high school students between the ages of 12 and 15.
Overall, they found that 23 percent of the boys and 31 percent of the girls suffered from symptoms of depression, including feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and sleep disturbances.
Based on questionnaires of food intake, and adjusting for factors including age and parents' education level, the investigators found that boys who ate the most fish had a 27 percent lower odds of being depressed compared to those ranked in the bottom fifth.
Meanwhile, no effect of fish oil on depression was seen among the girls.
Researchers note that the differing effect of fish oil between boys and girls is difficult to explain, although they point to a few possibilities such as a stronger genetic role for depression in women compared to men.
They also caution that their findings do not provide enough evidence to determine if fish oil actually lowers the risk of depression. It might be, for example, that those who are depressed eat less fish overall.
This latest study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, certainly leads the way for future research. Especially since omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish are thought to play a role in brain function, and many researchers have wondered whether increased consumption could lower the risk of depression.
Thus far, studies of such an association among adults have yielded inconclusive results.
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