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The good oil on mental wellbeing


Zoe Satherley
14 March 2006
'Bad' fats in our diet could be fuelling the fire in the current epidemic of mental health problems, according to a Southern Cross University researcher.

"While I believe mental health to be a complex issue, there is good evidence to suggest that certain dietary fats are associated with increased mental health problems while other fats offer some protection," said Joanne Bradbury, a graduate of Southern Cross University's Bachelor of Naturopathy program and PhD candidate.

"An interesting study published in the Lancet in 1998 showed that in countries where people eat more fish, there are lower levels of depression. This finding has sparked enormous interest in the links between depression and diet in the international scientific literature.

"We know that Australians are failing to meet their dietary requirements of the 'good' omega 3 fatty acids, like those found in fish, a fact brought to light by the 1995 National Nutrition Survey (a joint project between the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Commonweath Department of Health and Family Services).

"At the same time, depression and mental health issues have reached epidemic proportions here, with 6-8% of the population suffering with depression and 10% of the population diagnosed with a severe mental health disability.

"This rise coincides with a huge increase in our daily intake of the 'bad' omega 6 fatty acids, like those found in most processed foods, processed vegetable oils, margarine and meat.

"We already know that low dietary intakes of 'good' omega 3 fats and high levels of 'bad' omega 6 fats are linked with depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning difficulties, and lowered academic ability.

"My research will seek to contribute to this evidence that dietary fats are linked with mental health and how we feel."

The research is being conducted through the Australian Centre for Complementary Medicine, Education and Research (ACCMER), a joint venture between Queensland University and Southern Cross University committed to evidenced-based research into complementary medicine.

Ms Bradbury is seeking to recruit 200 people for her research project. To participate please email her at [email protected] or phone on 6626 9453.