Revisiting Fish Oil for Depression (and Low Fat Diets)

March 19, 2017

Health Recap
I’m experimenting with a super low fat diet.
Whole-Foods Plant-Based aka High-Carb Low-Fat Vegan.

I have depressive issues that manifest severely in the winter, known as seasonal affective disorder. I also found that I have multiple genetic markers for depression.

In the past, I had experimented with large doses of fish oil to treat depression. And it worked.

For some reason or another, I stopped taking fish oil. I can’t quite remember why, but it seems to be human nature that if something works, at some point a person will stop doing that thing. Makes no sense!

So this was a collision course of many factors.
The last four months (winter) are usually worst for me when it comes to depression.
I stopped taking fish oil for unknown reasons.
On top of that, I started a very low fat diet. Fat is good for brain and mood.
All of these made for a very tough winter!

That lasted until today when it dawned on me to retry taking my fish oil and it made all the difference. Brain feels tremendous again. So I want to tell you what I learned.

4 Grams EPA Fish Oil For Depression
In the past I took doses based on epa + dha, two types of fatty acid found in fish oil. Take a look at the nutrition label and it shows each of these items.

Many doctors recommend getting 2-4 grams of epa + dha. Some recommend much higher doses. One can take as high as 20 grams of epa + dha with not much side effects, I read and found from personal experience.

Today, I dug down deeper and found that the most important part of fish oil for depression is epa. And one doctor, Andrew Stoll, recommends getting 4 grams of epa per day for depression. That doesn’t mean avoid dha, it just means to take enough fish oil to get the 4 grams of epa.

For example, I currently take Dr. Tobias brand fish oil capsules. Each capsule contains 400mg epa + 300mg dha. To reach my goal of 4g (4000mg) epa, I would take a total of 10 capsules, resulting in 4g epa + 3g dha = 7 grams total of epa + dha. Make sense?

I think people who have depression issues need to be especially careful on low fat diets and supplement with 4g epa worth of fish oil. You can take more if that helps. The total fat content of those 10 capsules comes to 10grams of fat, which is well within my range even on a low fat diet.

I ended up making a spreadsheet of different fish oil capsules on amazon, comparing their epa, dha, total fat, ratings, and cost. Out of the ones I looked at, the following three offer the most bang for the buck.

(I avoided liquid fish oil, because those are much tougher to take. I also avoided products with no name brands or ones that seemed shady.)

Bronson Omega 3
625 epa + 244 dha per capsule.
Cost per capsule $0.13
7 capsules = 4g epa = $0.92 per day = $27.70 per month.

Now Foods Ultra Omega 3
500 epa + 250 dha per capsule
Cost per capsule $0.12
8 capsules = 4g epa = $0.94 per day = $29.23 per month.

Dr. Tobias Omega 3
400 epa + 300 dha per capsule.
Cost per capsule $0.16
10 capsules = 4g epa = $1.58 per day = $47.45 per month.

Resources:
Fish Oil Dose for Depression
“Andrew Stoll, Ph.D., Harvard researcher on Omega 3 and depression recommends 4 grams of EPA per day for those with depression.”

Fish Oil for Depression – Dr. Andrew Weil
“Very high doses of fish oil – 20 grams a day or more – have been used as treatments without any ill effects. In fact, there is no downside to adding good quality fish oil to your diet (except for the sustainability of ocean resources, a significant concern).”