There’s a lot of talk about omega-3 fatty acids and their controversial health benefits ranging from cancer to joint pain and even mental disorders. And now it looks as if a team led by Masayuki Sekiguchi at the National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry (NCNP) in Tokyo have found another thing omega-3 possibly cures: lingering fear.

The omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in particular was what the scientists were interested in. DHA can be found in blue ocean fish such as mackerel and sardines.

The team fed several mice diets containing both omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids such as linoleic acid. Omega-6 acids have an equally controversial but opposite reputation to omega-3 in that many believe they lead to negative health effects.

One group of mice was fed a diet of omega-3 and omega-6 acids in a ratio of about one to seven respectively. Another group of mice was given and equal ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

The groups of mice were each then given mild electric shocks to startle them and the time was measured until they got back to their normal behavior.

Of the mice fed a 1/7 mix of fatty acids, the average time to overcome their fear was 80 seconds. However, the mice fed a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 were back to normal after only 42 seconds on average.

The findings were presented at a neurological association conference held in Kyoto this week. While this experiment was still far from conclusive, the team hopes that this knowledge may develop into a prevention for anxiety disorders.

However, Dr. Sekiguchi stated far more directly; “By eating a lot of fish you can increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids which may help to suppress the onset of anxiety disorders.”

This could be great news for most of us, but for those who have lost loved ones to a ferocious pack of sardines it’s a viciously tragic Catch-22.

Source: NCNP, Yomiuri Online (Japanese)
Image: Wikipedia – Jastrow