Older adults may tend to disagree, but teenagers today are under a great deal of pressure. College admission requirements continue to increase, along with the cost of tuition. State-mandated school tests are also on the rise, as are educational requirements. Teenagers engaged in school activities find themselves in very competitive situations, and often outside help in the form of lessons, extra practices and tutors is required to keep pace. There are also the social pressures of just trying to fit in. All of these stressors can leave teenagers feeling overwhelmed and result in high anxiety and nervousness.
Recent studies, however, indicate that at least part of teenage angst can be blamed on diets lacking in Omega-3.
As parents can attest, teenagers don’t always make the healthiest food choices. But getting plenty of Omega-3 is essential not only for their health, but possibly the mental health of the next generation. One study, which recently appeared in Biological Psychiatry, suggests that behavioral problems may be more prevalent in adolescents whose parents’ diets lacked Omega-3. The timing of this study is particularly interesting because the parents of today’s teenagers were born in the 1960’s and 1970’s, when farm animals starting eating grain instead of grass, and humans began consuming more corn and soy oil, thus significantly reducing the amount of essential fatty acids, like Omega-3, that were consumed.
What do the studies show
According to the largest study ever conducted Omega-3’s effectiveness in treating depression, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, patients with major depression not accompanied by an anxiety disorder showed improvement after taking a fish oil supplement containing high concentrations of Omega-3. Mental health issues often begin to surface in the adolescent years, and the studies support the thought that, by reintroducing grass-fed livestock, eggs and wild fish into their regular diets, teenagers can better handle the pressures of school and social issues, and maintain a healthier mental balance.
Even mainstream and alternative medicine sources can agree that Omega-3 fats, like DHA and EPA, are polyunsaturated fats that are extremely good for our overall health. Within the human brain are neurons, which transmit messages from the brain to other parts of the body. The membrane around these neurons is made up of “good” fat, primarily Omega-3. To communicate effectively, these membranes need to allow critical molecules to pass through, so they need to be very agile. Many factors, such as age and poor diets high in saturated—or “bad”—fats can cause the membranes to stiffen and be less flexible. When this stiffness occurs, the necessary molecules don’t pass through the neurons correctly and can result in mood imbalances and other decreases in brain function, including learning challenges, which can lead to additional anxiety in teenagers.
By increasing your intake of Omega-3 you can increase the flexibility of the cell membranes to the neurons in the brain, resulting in improved cell communication and better brain function.
Ground flaxseeds, walnuts and salmon are the top three foods richest in Omega-3. Sardines, grass-fed beef, halibut, shrimp, scallops, soybeans, tofu and halibut are also excellent choices for increasing your Omega-3s. Two weekly servings of non-fried fish like salmon, for example, can significantly boost your Omega-3 intake. Greens, such as spinach, kale, romaine lettuce and Brussels sprouts are also good sources, as our raspberries and strawberries. A panel of experts from the National Institute of Health (NIH) has recommended that people consume at least 2 percent of their daily diet as Omega-3 fats. Therefore, a person consuming 2,000 calories per day should eat enough Omega-3-rich foods to provide at least 4 grams of Omega-3 fatty acids. This guideline is for both adults and teenagers.
Supplements and Anxiety
Increasingly, people are seeking supplements to increase their Omega-3 intake, but it’s important to know what to look for. Fish oil is a great supplement, but teenagers who are feeling anxious or depressed will likely want a supplement that is high in DHA for improved cognitive function. DHA therapy is growing in popularity as a treatment for depression, and it has been linked to improved memory. You should also research how much of the supplement to take because different people have different needs when it comes to their daily dose. It’s best to discuss your dose and the type of supplement you need with your physician, primarily because many supplements will have vitamins and minerals other than Omega-3s that could impact other aspects of your health.
It’s an excellent idea for teenagers who suffer from anxiety or depression to modify their diet or consider an Omega-3 supplement to help them through these challenging years. Not only does the research show an elevated mood, but the long-term health benefits of a diet rich in Omega-3 will contribute to their overall health for decades to come.
Milo Dragutinovic is an avid health & fitness enthusiast and blogger. He is an editor and publisher on the supplement authority website: Top10supplements.com.