Around 75% of people seeking help for depression are treated with antidepressant medication, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, but Dr. Andrew Stoll, from Harvard University, believes that he may have found a more natural answer in the sea.

Increasing numbers of Americans are being treated for depression and 2% of the population now seeking help for the condition. In neighbouring Canada meanwhile, more than two million people have the illness, which is estimated to cost the economy C$13bn a year.

Speaking last week to CTV’s health specialist Avis Favaro, Stoll explained his faith in fish oil capsules for fighting depression.

“We don’t know how they are working but there are a dozen candidate ways in how they might be helping mood,” he said: “It looks like a whole range of these neuropsychiatric disorders (including schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder and depression) that appear more common today than they were decades ago may be nutritionally related and we’re going to try to prove that.”

Stoll has been prescribing 10 grams of fish oil a day to depressed patients. He reports that twelve out of fourteen responded well to the treatment, compared to only 40% of the placebo patients, “so it was a real dramatic difference”.

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By GlobalData

The fish oil theory was prompted by the observation that rates of depression are lower in countries that generally consume high levels of fish, such as salmon and cod, or flax seeds – foods that are all high in omega three fatty acids. Important in brain function, these oils are thought to keep brain cells lubricated and also boost the important chemicals that stabilize mood.

Further studies are now in the pipeline to establish how fish oils compare to conventional antidepressants.