Omega-3 Fatty Acid Deficiencies: How Our Modern Diet Has Made Us Unhappy

Rebecca Glynne Long


Depression is an extremely costly and debilitation condition. Researchers have failed to find a single causal mechanism, concluding that several genetic and environmental factors contribute to the etiology of depression. However, researchers cannot ignore the drastic dietary changes that have occurred since the onset of industrialization. Deficiencies in certain critical nutrients may put individuals at risk for depression. Research in recent years has turned to deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids to help explain increased rates of depression over the course of the 20th century. This paper first explains how the industrialization of agricultural production has served to significantly alter our intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Next, this paper examines a suggested causal mechanism linking omega-3 fatty acids deficiencies to depression: omega-3 fatty acids deficiencies contribute to a heightened inflammatory response resulting from prolonged activation of the immune system. Inflammation in turn produces sickness behaviors that mirror depressive symptoms. Lastly, this paper will focus on a brief review of the literature studying the effects of omega-3 fatty acids deficiencies in depressed individuals. Research investigating the role of omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies in depressed patients has the potential to lead to the development of more efficacious treatment and prevention options.


Depression; Omega-3 fatty acids; Omega-6 fatty acids; Inflammation; Industrialization

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