March 7, 2007 -- Omega-3 fatty acids -- found in foods including walnuts, flax, and fatty fish such as salmon and sardines -- may boost brain areas that govern mood.
That's the finding from a preliminary study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh's Sarah Conklin, PhD.
Conklin studied 55 healthy adults who completed a survey on two separate days -- each saying what the participants had eaten the day before. Participants also got brain scans using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Conklin focused on gray matter -- which processes information -- located in three brain areas that regulate mood.
Participants with the highest intake of omega-3 fatty acids had the most gray matter in those brain areas, the study shows.
But don't jump to conclusions. The study doesn't prove that omega-3 fatty acids build gray matter. Perhaps participants with the most gray matter in those brain areas happen to favor foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
But if omega-3 fatty acids boost gray matter, that could explain earlier findings linking omega-3 fatty acids to mood regulation, Conklin notes.
She presented the study's results in Budapest, Hungary, at the American Psychosomatic Society's 65th annual scientific conference.