Eating plenty of fish may help curb the risk of depression suggests a new analysis of the available evidence.
The association between fish and mental health appears to be equally significant among men and women, the analysis indicates.
Depression affects an estimated 350 million people worldwide, and is projected to become the second leading cause of ill health by 2020.
The researchers therefore pooled the data from studies published between 2001 and 2014 to assess the strength of the evidence on the link between fish consumption and depression risk
After pooling all the data together, a significant association emerged between those eating the most fish and a 17% reduction in depression risk compared with those eating the least. This was found in only for studies conducted among people living in Europe.
When the researchers looked specifically at gender, they found a slightly stronger association between high fish consumption and lowered depression risk in men (20%). Among women, the associated reduction in risk was 16%.
This is an observational study so it does not prove that eating fish prevents depression. But there may be explanations for the association.
It has been suggested that the omega 3 fatty acids found in fish may alter the structure of brain cell membranes and modify the activity of brain chemicals thought to be involved in depression.
As well, the high quality protein, vitamins, and minerals found in fish may help guard against depression.
The researchers stated that future studies are needed to further investigate whether this association varies according to the type of fish.
Source: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, September 10, 2015.
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