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Depression Health Center

Do Some Foods Battle Depression?

Compounds From Fatty Fish, Sugar Beets, Beet Molasses May Help Fight Depression
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Feb. 10, 2005 -- Could your next meal help relieve depression? Perhaps, if the menu includes fatty fish like salmon or herring fish, walnuts, sugar beets, or beet molasses.

Those foods contain substances that had an antidepressant effect in tests on rats, researchers report in the Feb. 15 issue of Biological Psychiatry.

The substances are omega-3 fatty acids and uridine. Abundant omega-3 fatty acids are found in certain fish -- especially in fatty fish like salmon and herring -- as well as walnuts and flaxseed. Uridine occurs in sugar beets and molasses made from those beets. Uridine hasn't been clinically tested on people with mood disorders, say the researchers.

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish have drawn a lot of attention in recent years. They've been studied for benefits against heart disease, stroke, sudden death and arthritis, as well as depression. Studies have found that societies that eat lots of fish have lower depression rates, possibly due to omega-3 fatty acids.

But in America, where fish isn't a dietary staple, depression is common. Nearly 19 million people per year in the U.S. have depression, says the National Institute of Mental Health.

Tests on Rats

The new study comes from William Carlezon Jr., PhD, and colleagues from McLean Hospital's psychiatry department. The Massachusetts hospital is affiliated with Harvard Medical School.

The experiment didn't involve people. Instead, the researchers tested dietary omega-3 fatty acids and uridine injections in rats.

To induce a depression-like state, the rats took a forced swim test that thwarted them at every turn. The rats quickly became helpless, since they couldn't escape, no matter how hard they tried. The researchers tried three approaches. They injected the rats with uridine. Later, they fed the rats a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids. Lastly, they tried combining lower doses of both uridine and omega-3 fatty acids.

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