Low Omega-3 intake is associated with high rates of depression and preterm birth on the country level.
Sci Rep. 2020 11 12 ;10(1):19749. Epub 2020 Nov 12. PMID: 33184396
Timothy H Ciesielski
Low circulating levels of long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC omega-3 PUFA) have been linked to major depressive disorder (MDD) and preterm birth (PTB), and prenatal depression associates with PTB. We therefore hypothesized that low Omega-3 intake would associate with higher MDD and PTB rates on the country-level. To test this hypothesis, we obtained country-level estimates for omega-3 intake, MDD prevalence, PTB rate, and per capita income for 184 countries in 2010. We then estimated the LC omega-3 PUFA levels that these intakes produce by accounting for direct consumption and the endogenous conversion of ingested plant-based precursors. Penalized splines indicated that MDD and PTB rates decreased linearly with increasing LC omega-3 PUFA, up to ~ 1000 mg/day for MDD and up to ~ 550 mg/day for PTB. Adjusted linear regression models below these thresholds revealed that a one standard deviation increase in LC omega-3 PUFA (380 mg/day) was associated with an MDD decrease of 5 cases/1000 people and a PTB decrease of 15 cases/1000 livebirths. In light of the extensive prior evidence on the individual-level, these findings indicate that low intake of LC omega-3 PUFA and its precursors may be elevating MDD and PTB rates in 85% of the countries studied.