Was Humanity's Rise to Preeminence Fueled By Fish Oils? - 3

    My further incursions into Dr. Sears' book, The Omega-3 Rx Zone, have been a mountaintop experience. Dr. Sears provides an integrated treatment of degenerative diseases, including the biochemical pathways that lead from the fatty acids linoleic acid, gamma-linolenic acid, and eicosapentanoic acid to the eicosanoids that include the prostaglandins as one subset of nine known families of hormones. He also ties this to insulin, which, I've lately learned, is almost as important to "non-diabetics" as it is to diabetics. (I've put "non-diabetics" in quotes because we all tend to become Type II diabetics as we grow older, and because insulin can silently wreak its damage well before any frank blood sugar modulation problems are apparent.) It's the understanding of how so many of our pills work, including aspirin, ibuprofen, Celebrex, and the statins, that is the satisfying part of this experience for me. Dr. Sears is quick to point out that this picture isn't his alone but is based upon work that won the 1982 Nobel Prize in Medicine.
    Dr. Sears describes clinical experiments in which high-dose, pharmaceutical-grade fish oils were administered to patients with manic-depressive disorder. These patients were stabilized using high-dose fish oils, as were clinical-depression patients. (The patients' descriptions of their experiences are given in the book.)  This work dovetails with the Oxford University results feeding fish oil to schoolchildren. Harvard's Dr. Andrew Stoll , Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School, has also pioneered in fish oil studies, and I've ordered his book, The Omega-3 Connection: The Groundbreaking Anti-depression Diet and Brain ProgramHere are several reviews of Dr. Stoll's book:


A must-read for anyone dealing with depression, The Omega-3 Connection by Andrew L. Stoll, M.D., strikes yet another blow against the standard American diet. We already know that years of noshing on highly processed foods have saddled us with sky-high rates of heart disease, obesity, and related conditions. But, as we're starting to understand now, our eating habits may also be subtly altering our brain chemistry, leaving us vulnerable to anxiety disorders and depression. Only in this case, it's not just what we're eating--it's what we're not eating: foods containing omega-3 essential fatty acids--the "good fats" that help maintain optimal brain function.

In his book, Stoll, the director of the psychopharmacology research lab at Boston's McLean Hospital and assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, suggests that restoring our body's natural balance of omega-3s may help alleviate (and prevent) many types of depression--even for those who don't respond to traditional antidepressants. Omega-3s may also prove helpful with other problems, such as the inability to handle stress, memory loss, and cognitive decline. The book contains a "renewal plan" designed to help readers put Stoll's concepts into practice, recipes for omega-3-rich dishes, advice for choosing supplements, and dosages for therapeutic use.

Although Stoll is quick with the caveat that much of the research on omega-3s and brain function is still evolving, he makes a compelling case for using these fats to regulate depression and other cognitive disorders. Along with major epidemiological evidence that shows lower rates of depression in those cultures that consume a great deal of omega-3s, Stoll's own studies indicate that boosting their intake can reduce depression symptoms. And Stoll cites stacks of additional studies suggesting that omega-3s can also help with major depression, schizophrenia, and postpartum depression. Going even further, Stoll makes a strong argument that omega-3 deficiency could be contributing to rising rates of teen violence and attention deficit disorders.

Of course, depression should never be treated without physician supervision. But in laying the groundwork for the omega-3s to emerge as the next big thing in natural depression therapy, Stoll certainly gives us food for thought. --Norine Dworkin

Harold G. Koenig, M.D. Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, and author of The Healing Power of Faith Dr. Stoll provides a careful, scientifically based look at a natural, nondrug treatment for depression and manic-depressive illness. Easy to read, fascinating, and informative, this book is a must for every person who struggles with these conditions and for those who love them.

Book Description

For years scientists have searched for a "magic bullet" to relieve the pain of depression and other mood disorders -- safe enough for nursing mothers, children with ADHD, and the elderly, without the side effects associated with medicines like Prozac, Zoloft, and lithium. Now the search may finally be over, thanks to the Omega-3 Renewal Plan, introduced here by Andrew L. Stoll, M.D., Director of the Psycho-pharmacology Research Laboratory at Harvard's McLean Hospital.

In his groundbreaking research, Stoll found that omega-3 fatty acids, already known for their importance in preventing heart disease, Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer, play a crucial role in mental health -- regulating and en-hancing mood, sharpening memory, and even aiding concentration and learning. And these remarkable substances, so essential to our health, are found abundantly in common fish oils and other sources.

The bad news is that even though omega-3 fatty acids have played a critical role in our evolutionary past, these extraordinary substances have been depleted by our Western diet and lifestyle, and the resulting nutritional imbalance seems to have led to a sharp rise in heart disease and depression. By contrast, in Japan and other countries where fish consumption is high, both heart disease and depression rates are low. Stoll explains how easily omega-3s can be used up in just a few generations, and how a new mother with depleted omega-3s loses still more to her baby -- a fact that may account for the severe postpartum depression so many women suffer. He documents evidence that a shortage of omega-3s may also play a role in attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other learning problems. The good news is that this downward spiral of depletion and depression can finally be reversed.

In his revolutionary Omega-3 Renewal Plan, Dr. Stoll presents readers for the first time with all the tools for restoring their natural balance of omega-3 fatty acids, including which foods to eat and how to choose the most effective over-the-counter supplements. Featuring information on how to integrate flaxseed and fish oils into diet and medication plans, and including simple recipes as well as supplement dosages and sources, The Omega-3 Connection offers an entirely new, practical method for improving mental health.

4 out of 5 stars How to better understand brain dysfunction in depression, August 28, 2003

Reviewer: Institut de Recherche Clinique from Pau France
Andrew L. Stoll wrote un very interesting book on depression and diet. The tremendous change in the balance of essential fatty acids during this century and particularly in well developped countries is clearly documented. The war against fat is not fair and produce significant countereffects which lead to depression, obesity, metabolic syndrome and for kids underdevelopment of the brain. These facts are described with details inside this book. Obviously a diet approach is restrictive because physical exerci4 out of 5 starsse, meditation, environment and genetics play also a role in depression but one must keep in mind that without a good intake in omega 3 fatty acids it is difficult to maintain brain health.

5 out of 5 stars Omega-3 fish oil-Irish experience, November 29, 2001
Reviewer: dr edmond o`flaherty (see more about me) from BLACKROCK, CO. DUBLIN Ireland
I first became interested in omega-3 when I read Andrew Stoll`s article in Archives of General Psychiatry in May 99.I tried it on a patient with bipolar disorder who had intractable OCD-she worried about Aids all day long.In just a few days her OCD improved dramatically,she stopped smoking,slept well and became quite relaxed.I then read everything I could find on the subject and found Donald Rudin an interesting writer.I was delighted to see Dr Stoll had written this book and have read it a few times.I have enjoyed it more than most novels and it has been very helpful to many of my patients.I have found omega-3 useful too for several other indications,including agoraphobia,alcoholism,drug abuse,sexual abuse,schizophrenia,anxiety,depression,insomnia and withdrawal from benzodiazepines.It has opened a whole new world for me in the treatment of mental illness.Because I have been interviewed on Irish radio many people here take omega-3 and find it takes the edge off the stress of everyday living.

5 out of 5 stars Essential Read, November 11, 2003
Reviewer: Robyn Wright (see more about me) from Missouri, USA
This book is essential for anyone wanting to try using Omega-3 supplements for the treatment of bipolar and depression. Discussion on past clinical trials, information on what to look for in Omega-3 when buying and more are covered in the book. Very easy to read for everyone I think as it is not a bunch of medical verbage, more common language. --This text refers to the Paperback edition

5 out of 5 stars there's hope if you're going through perimenopause!, April 4, 2003
Reviewer: A reader from auburn, wa United States
I fell into a deep depression about seven months ago. I've been to doctors and psychiatrists only to be put on different medications for anxiety and depression. I didn't understand why I was in a depression as my life is going very well.
The doctors didn't offer any good reasons why this happens. I asked my doctor if this could be because I'm entering menopause. (I have other symptoms of this.) He said I was too young.
After doing a lot of research on the Internet, I found out that I was going through perimenopause and depression can be one of the symptoms.
I researched again and finally found this book. It is truly amazing! My depression lifted in about a week. I can think clearly and I sleep better than I have in years!
Not only that, Dr. Stoll mentions that even young children can use Omega-3 safely. This is an added bonus as I have a 9 year-old who has had trouble going to sleep for years and very high-strung and nervous. I found a children's supplement of Omega-3 for him and he now falls to sleep easily and sleeps like a baby. He also tells me he feels more relaxed. (By the way, I took him to so called "specialists" and all they wanted to do was put him on drugs!)
I still feel a little weepy around my menstrual period, but I don't have severe depression anymore.
This book is a Blessing! --This text refers to the Paperback edition

5 out of 5 stars Worth reading even if you're not depressed, March 26, 2003
Reviewer: Dave from Washington, DC
This is an excellent book on the omega-3s, which are health providing substances found in fish oil. Stoll is clearly an authority on the subject and does an excellent job of explaining what is known so far about the omega-3s and what some of the remaining questions are. Excellent information is provided on how to supplement your diet with more fish oil through food intake or supplements. Some ideas in the book are a bit speculative, however, and perhaps the entire case of there being some sort of epidemic omega-3 shortage that is causing a good deal of depression is overstated and premature. Nonetheless, there does seem to be some correlation between low rates of depression and cultures with high dietary intake of omega-3s. I wonder if ancient man ate much fish oil, as this is an evolutionary question that might tell us something about whether we're really missing out on this supposedly essential substance today. Either way, this is an excellent book for learning more about omega-3s. Avery Z. Conner, author of "Fevers of the Mind".

    Dr. Nicholas Perricone's books are also sounding the same omega-3 theme as Dr. Sears' and Dr. Stoll's publications..

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