by Chas Gant MD, PhD
In a recent study (August 2011) published online in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, it was found that low levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the major omega-3 fatty acid concentrated in the brain, may increase suicide risk. A retrospective case-control study of 1600 United States military personnel, including 800 who had committed suicide and 800 healthy counterparts, showed that all participants had low omega-3 levels. However, the suicide risk was 62% greatest in those with the lowest levels of DHA.
According to Joseph R. Hibbeln, MD, acting chief, Section on Nutritional Neurosciences at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, "Omega-3 is already recommended by the American Psychiatric Association as adjunctive therapy for anybody with a psychiatric disorder, especially for those with major depression."
Suicide rates in military personnel have doubled since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and now "rival the battlefield in toll." Other data and research suggests that nutritional deficiencies in the omega-3 fatty acids may increase vulnerability to combat deployment stress, manifesting as psychiatric symptoms including adjustment disorders, PTSD, substance abuse and alcoholism, major depression, impulsive violence, and suicide. In addition, studies conducted in civilian populations have also suggested that low DHA levels are linked to increased risk for suicide attempts and may contribute to adverse psychiatric symptoms.