More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Eating Fat Improves Mental Health, Study Finds
Jimmy Moore
March 5, 2006

The following is a reprint from the blog Livin' La Vida Low-Carb:

A new study presented at the 64th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society in Denver, Colorado this weekend has concluded that an increased consumption of omega-3 fatty acids could play a role in improving overall state of mind, controlling mood swings and diminishing erratic and sometimes suicidal behavior.

For those of us who are livin' la vida low-carb, this is excellent news since we have been preaching the message that omega-3 fatty acids are important for heart health for a long time. Now this study shows that consuming fats like these can also benefit your mental health as well.

Led by Dr. Sarah Conklin, from the psychiatry department at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine's Cardiovascular Behavioral Medicine Program, researchers examined 106 healthy volunteers and discovered a rather peculiar link between omega-3 fatty acids and the study participant's overall mood.

Side-by-side blood test comparisons of the dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acid levels were lined up with the study participants' scores on three accepted tests for depression, impulsiveness and personality. For the study, the researchers did not ask the participants to make any changes in their regular eating schedule.

What they found was eye-opening to say the least.

Those study participants who had lower blood levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids reported having symptoms of depression while also having a pessimistic view of life. Additionally, many of these same people were also found to be more spur-of-the-moment in their decision-making and taking unnecessary risks.

Conversely, those study participants with more elevated levels of omega-3 fatty acids had a happier demeanor and attitude on life as well as a much more stable mental state of mind.

Dr. Conklin said this newfound connection between omega-3 fatty acids and mental disease in otherwise healthy adults warrants further investigation into whether dietary recommendations should be altered to include higher consumption of foods that contain the omega-3s to help treat mental disease.

"A number of previous studies have linked low levels of omega-3 to clinically significant conditions such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse and attention deficit disorder," Dr. Conklin explained. "However, few studies have shown that these relationships also occur in healthy adults. This study opens the door for future research looking at what effect increasing omega-3 intake, whether by eating omega-3 rich foods like salmon, or taking fish-oil supplements, has on people's mood."

I have previously blogged about how some people actually think eating a low-carb diet can cause you to be in a perpetual bad mood. However, my experience has been that diets that are lower in FAT, not carbs led me to experience wild mood swings mostly because they kept me on a sugar rollercoaster ride most of the time and, even worse, failed to satisfy my hunger. I get irritable when I'm hungry and I stayed that way the entire time I was on a low-fat diet.

But not anymore now that I'm livin' la vida low-carb, enjoying the great-tasting healthy foods I get to eat now, and consuming more fat as part of my healthy lifestyle while controlling my weight permanently. I supplement my diet with fish oil and have done so every single day since I started low-carbin' it in January 2004.

The study conducted by Dr. Conklin and her fellow researchers concludes that since the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends Americans eat fish twice a week to get omega-3 fatty acids into their diet, that advice should be heeded to improve heart health and quite possibly improve mental health as well.

So what do you think about all of this? While we should certainly be jumping for joy at yet another health benefit of consuming omega-3 fatty acids, how is this going to translate in a world that has become so scared of ANY kind of fat that they'll just ignore the call to consume more? Fat-phobia in the United States is very real no thanks to the government indoctrination we have heard over the past three decades about eliminating fat from our diet.

That's exactly what I have been afraid of with all these low-fat apologists out there barking away at their message as if they have the final say about what is healthy for people. We know better because we have educated ourselves about why consuming fat is a good thing for our health while eating sugar, white flour, starchy, and processed foods are decidedly unhealthy.

Dr. Nicholas Perricone recommends eating more omega-3s as part of his Perricone Weight-Loss Diet plan and suggests people start eating more Wild Alaskan Salmon. Ever since I read his book, I have eaten at least 3 servings of salmon every week. My wife makes it for me like tuna salad with sugar-free pickle relish and yummy mayonaisse. Put that on a slice or two of low-carb bread or fiber crackers and you've got a filling, high-protein, low-carb meal chock full of healthy portions of omega-3 fatty acids!

Also, omega-3s can be found in various protein powders, including this one made from hemp that I recently reviewed for you.

When are we going to hear the message that FAT is healthy from the AHA? All they ever say is low-fat/low-calorie/portion control! But clearly there are good fats to be heralded and it's high time they start doing that now that not only heart health is being affected but mental health also.


I was watching a program once about the evolution of the human species. Some researchers actually believe that women played a crucial role in the brain development of humans. This is because they started fishing. At one point they would gather food to eat (nuts and so on). Possibly when people started fishing and eating sea food, it eventually caused babies to be born with more intelligent brains. This hasn't been proven or anything, but I just found it interesting.
Here in Korea, I can't get over how much sea food people eat. We eat a lot in North America too, but I don't find as often and in so many different varieties. Of course, I grew up in Ontario, not on the coast. But, there are just so many restaurants here that serve sea food, and although it can be expensive a lot of it isn't compared to what you could get in Canada (I think). People will sit down and eat huge plates of sushi and it doesn't make them fat.
Too bad I don't like it! I don't mind some fish, but I hate shell fish.


I think eating "healthy" fats is one thing, a good thing!, but eating a high protein diet and low-carb to me is just as bad as the reverse... I honestly do think that it just comes down to moderation and eating balanced meals, and not trying to cut out or lower one food group versus the other...

Diana- you don't like sushi???!!! :eek: I loooooove sushi. but I remember when I 1st saw it and tried it I didn't... and one of my best friends right now refuses to eat it too, which makes it kind of diffult to grab something to eat b/c it's like a sushi culture here. :D


I agree with you that eating a balanced diet is probably the best way to go. High protein/low carb diets won't make you fat. They might even help you gain some muscle and stay lean. But, it's just not what your body wants. Your body will crave carbs making you vulnerable to being moody.
Eunoia, trust me, I've tried. Living in Asia, think about it. Having a Korean boyfriend. I have eaten sushi and I decided for a while that I kind of liked some kinds. But then after a while I just really didn't want to eat it anymore. It just stopped appealing to me. It's the texture. Just like when I was a child I couldn't eat mushrooms. I can now, but I usually push them to the side.
Keep eating that sushi though! It's really good for you I believe.
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