The secret to happiness could lie in something as simple as a tuna sandwich or cod and chips.
Eating fish can keep the blues at bay, according to a new study – but only in women.
Researchers discovered that having seafood on the menu at least twice a week reduces the risk of depression among females by 25 per cent.
However, for men, fish had no protective effect.
The paper – published in the American Journal of Epidemiology – speculates that high levels of omega-3 fatty acids may combine with the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone to keep the brain functioning properly.
A team from the Menzies Research Institute in Tasmania, Australia, tracked more than 1,400 men and women aged between 26 and 36 for a period of five years.
The participants kept diaries of their diet – including various types of seafood including fish, prawns and mussels - while details about their mental health were also collated.
Even after taking into account lifestyle factors such as smoking, weight, exercise, alcohol consumption, education and employment status, a strong link was found between eating fish and incidence of depression.
The study states: ‘For women, there was a trend for each additional weekly serving of fish to reduce the risk of having depression during follow-up by six per cent.
‘Women who ate fish more than two times per week at baseline had a 25 per cent lower risk of having depression during follow-up than those who ate fish less than two times per week.
‘For men, baseline fish consumption was not associated with the risk of depression.’
It adds: ‘The observed protective association for women but not for men may have been due to men consuming more omega-3 fatty acids from other dietary sources, particularly from meat.
‘Alternatively, interactions between sex hormones and omega-3 fatty acids might provide another explanation.
‘These findings add to the growing evidence that fish consumption may be beneficial for women’s mental health.’
Dr Richard Marsh, chief executive of the Institute of Food, Brain and Behaviour, said: “Part of the brain is formed from omega 3 long chain fatty acids commonly found in oily fish.
‘There have been other studies that indicate that eating oily fish might have an impact on mood.
‘This study has reached an interesting conclusion that the benefits are seen purely in women, however, it remains unclear what factors are at play here and further research would be necessary to confirm this result.
‘What is beyond argument, though, is that the human body, including the brain, requires appropriate nutrition to function properly and that, in some instances, deficiencies can and do manifest themselves in conditions such as depression.
‘Consumption of oily fish can promote good health in many ways as part of a balanced diet.’
Around five million Britons are living with depression at any one time with up to one in five people affected at some point in their lives.
Research shows women are more than twice as likely to fall victim, mostly between the ages of 16 and 42 as they try to balance work and family life.
Rates have soared since the 1970s and depression is now recognised as a predictor of risk for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Dietitian Dr Sarah Schenker said: ‘The fatty acids in fish are long chain so can be readily used by the body whereas they are short chain in meat so have to be adapted.
‘If men consume more food but are more reliant on meat for their fatty acids than women, it would perhaps explain why the positive effects of fish on depression are seen only in women in this study.
‘Long chain fatty acids have been proven to be good for brain health.
‘It’s recommended that people eat two portions of fish a week, one of them oily, such as mackerel, fresh tuna, salmon or sardines.
‘But shellfish and white fish are also nutrient-rich and can stop deficiencies in key minerals such as zinc and iodine.
‘This study shows again why people should stop looking at food simply as fuel and think more broadly.
‘It doesn’t take much to tweak your diet and reap considerable health benefits.’
Courtesy: Daily Mail