A new study from the University of Montreal has shown a possible connection with omega-3 levels and postnatal depression. The research found that women who are pregnant and have recently given birth have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids. One major symptom of omega-3 deficiency is depression. A previous study found a direct causation between omega-3 deficiency and depression in mice.
Postpartum depression occurs more frequently in women, and after having given birth. Omega-3 is transferred from the mother to her child in utero and later through breastfeeding. This can cause an omega-3 deficiency to develop in the mother. The mothers levels of the fatty acid can remain lowered for 6 weeks after giving birth. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fatty fish and in certain nuts and seeds.
The researchers reviewed the findings of 75 previous studies on omega-3 fatty acid levels and a specific gene, known as 5-HTT gene, which controls the effect of serotonin in the brain. During pregnancy, serotonin levels drop in the mother, as tryptophan, a chemical used to produce serotonin, is diverted to support the fetus. The theory is that omega-3 fatty acids can be supplemented to boost the 5-HTT gene activity, raising serotonin levels in the mother’s brain.
The lead researcher Gabriel Shapiro, commented on the study findings. “The literature shows that there could be a link between pregnancy, omega-3 and the chemical reaction that enables serotonin, a mood regulator, to be released into our brains.” Shapiro continued, “So much of what we know about postpartum depression has to do with risk factors that are difficult, if not impossible to change – things like socioeconomic status, personal history of depression or genetic exposures.”
Further research must be completed to see if omega-3 supplementation can actively help postpartum depression. Shapiro warns that their preliminary findings cannot yet lead to dietary recommendations. Shapiro further notes that, “If women are concerned about nutrition in pregnancy, they should discuss this with their doctor.”
Source: Vancouver Sun