Fish consumption and reported health status.




Public Health Nutr

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Professional Data: Omega-3 Fatty Acids


In the late 1970s, scientists learned that the native Inuits in Greenland, who consumed a diet very high in omega-3 fatty acids, had surprisingly low rates of heart attacks. Since that time thousands of scientific studies have evaluated the multiple ways that omega-3 fatty acids promotes not only cardiovascular health, but also the healthy functioning of many other biological activities. Many Americans don't get enough of it in their diets. One reason is that omega-3 oils are very susceptible to spoilage and so many food manufacturers remove it to keep products fresh. Another reason is that omega-3 oils mostly come from cold-water fish and wild game— something most Americans don't eat in great quantities.

Omega-3 refers to a group or "family" of unsaturated fatty acids. The first fatty acid in this group is named alpha linolenic acid or just linolenic acid, and sometimes it is just called omega-3. Linolenic acid cannot be made in the body and therefore, it is classified as an essential fatty acid and must be obtained from either the diet or in supplement form. The other two fatty acids in the omega-3 family are named eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The body can manufacture EPA and DHA by conversions from linolenic acid.

Recently in New Zealand, a study examined a possible link between fish consumption and self-reported health status in 4,644 adults aged 15 and older. Participants answered questionnaires in regards to mental health and dietary intakes. Responses were divided into 2 groups: those who consumed any amount of fish and those who did not consume any. After adjustments for age, sex, and eating patterns among others, the results illustrated a strong association between fish consumption and mental health status. The authors of this study concluded that this study, "demonstrate a significant relationship between fish intake and higher self-reported mental health status, therefore offering indirect support for the hypothesis that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may act as mood stabilizers."1


1. Silvers KM, et al. Fish consumption and self-reported physical and mental health status. Public Health Nutr. Jun 2002;5(3):427-32.