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Omega-3 fatty acids and (mental) health2022-04-02

Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.

-Hippocrates

There is a false dichotomy between nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals. Biologically, nutraceuticals and compounds in food can affect biology as powerfully as medications, albeit in a less quantitated and regulated fashion. And medications are needed to feed our biological needs, and correct imbalances.

An important case in point is that of omega-3 fatty acids. Early studies by my group in animal models over a decade ago using dietary supplementation with DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), a key omega-3 fatty acid, showed widespread effects on gene expression in brain and blood, on genes related to mood disorders, stress, and alcoholism1. Some of those genes were later identified by us to be implicated in suicidality2, pain3, longevity4, and memory disorders5. This seems like a simple and cheap public health intervention, that could improve quality of life for individuals and reduce healthcare costs for society.

There may be are other medical benefits of such and intervention, and few side-effects (increased bleeding time being one). Like with any other medication, not everybody responds, and some large scale- studies, which look at average effects in a population, had mixed results. Biomarker profiling, like that done by MindX Sciences Blood Tests, can indicate if somebody may benefit from omega-3 treatment, as well as help monitor response to treatment.

Live. Happier. Longer.

Alexander B. Niculescu, MD, PhD
Founder + CEO | MindX Sciences

Footnotes

  1. Le-Niculescu, H. et al. Convergent functional genomic studies of omega-3 fatty acids in stress reactivity, bipolar disorder and alcoholism. Transl Psychiatry 1, e4, doi:10.1038/tp.2011.1 (2011).

  2. Niculescu, A. B. et al. Precision medicine for suicidality: from universality to subtypes and personalization. Mol Psychiatry 22, 1250-1273, doi:10.1038/mp.2017.128 (2017).

  3. Niculescu, A. B. et al. Towards precision medicine for pain: diagnostic biomarkers and repurposed drugs. Mol Psychiatry 24, 501-522, doi:10.1038/s41380-018-0345-5 (2019).

  4. Rangaraju, S. et al. Mood, stress and longevity: convergence on ANK3. Mol Psychiatry 21, 1037-1049, doi:10.1038/mp.2016.65 (2016).

  5. Niculescu, A. B. et al. Blood biomarkers for memory: toward early detection of risk for Alzheimer disease, pharmacogenomics, and repurposed drugs. Mol Psychiatry, doi:10.1038/s41380-019-0602-2 (2019).