Can fish improve your mental health?

Last month, researchers at the University of Alberta and Dalhousie University published an article in Public Health Nutrition exploring a connection between diet and mental health in youth.

Researchers received Food Frequency Questionnaires from over 3700 Nova Scotia youth between 10 and 11 years of age. They analyzed the FFQs for diet quality based on variety, adequacy, moderation, and balance. With parental permission, they used provincial health care numbers to get access to physician diagnoses on internalizing disorders (such as depression and anxiety).

One of the findings of the study showed that there did not seem to be any significant difference in the rate of incidents of internalizing disorders between participants when considering the types of food consumed. There was no significant difference in incident rates when looking at fruit and vegetable intake nor in folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 intakes.

There was one area where there did seem to be a significant difference: fish consumption.

Comparing the third of the children who had the lowest fish consumption with the third of the children who had the highest consumption, researchers discovered that higher fish intake seemed to be associated with lower rates of internalizing disorder incidents.

What is more interesting is that when comparing fatty acids (which are commonly found in fish) consumption, there seemed to be no significant connection between fatty acid consumption and disorder incident rates. The connection seemed to be in eating the fish itself rather than specific ingredients found in the fish.

Researchers also indicated in their article that fish consumption is a good indicator of diet variety, and as mentioned in an earlier blog post, a varied diet may have a positive impact on mental health.