Fish is brain food, and krill is food for whales. We can’t say whether that makes whales the smartest mammal in the sea, but they could be the happiest. That’s because a raft of research shows that the DHA found in krill can sail you away from the blues.
It starts with the simple fact that the human brain is mostly fat – about 60%, specifically DHA and phospholipids. DHA is also a major structural component of neurons, which are in charge of processing and transmitting information in the brain – exactly the kind of job we like the brain to undertake a few billion times a day. “What makes krill oil so extraordinary is the composition of fatty acids and phospholipids,” writes Michael A. Schmidt, Ph.D., in Brain-Building Nutrition (Frog Ltd, 2007). “In fact, if one were to set out to design the ideal ‘custom formula’ of brain fatty acids, you would arrive at something not so different from krill oil.”
Secondly, many studies show that depressed people tend to have low levels of omega-3 DHA in their system. In a study published in 2010, researchers at the Veterans’ Administration Pittsburgh office made no bones about it: They looked at the brains of 14 deceased individuals, and found a distinct correlation between the amount of fatty acids present in the brains and whether or not the person was said to be majorly depressed at the time of his or her demise.1
This is also true of new mothers after giving life to babies but who consequently suffer from the “baby blues” – a conservative estimate is that 16% of new moms are afflicted by it. And while genetic, social, psychological and biological factors have all been implicated to various degrees, so has nutrition, with omega-3 fatty-acid deficiencies decidedly atop that list.2
Depression is a worldwide problem, so much so in fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) forecasts that within 20 years more people will be affected by depression than any other health problem. WHO says that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting around 120 million people.
In 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 different research teams in Asia, Europe and America all came to the same conclusion: “Significant antidepressant effect of omega-3 PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids, scientific shorthand for omega-3 DHA and EPA),” as the Taiwan team put it in 2007.4,5,6,7
In 2009, a psychiatrist reviewing the published research in people who are bipolar or who have major depression went one better and said the evidence to date shows people should get between 700 and 1,500 milligrams per day of DHA.8
Again, because krill contains esterified DHA combined with phospholipids, you can probably cut that DHA quantity in half or more.
Here’s one more testament to the depression-fighting performance of omega-3 DHA and EPA: the US military is looking at supplementing its troops with them to potentially save money on health-care because of the overabundance of both brain injuries, as well as depression. Ten-hut!
McNamara RK. Evaluation of docosahexaenoic acid deficiency as a preventable risk factor for recurrent affective disorders: current status, future directions, and dietary recommendations.Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2009 Aug-Sep;81(2-3):223-31.