February 18, 2009

Publication: Irish Examiner

Date: Wednesday, February 18, 2009 Page: 4

Author: by Ray Ryan

Headline: Depression risk 50 times lower in Japan due to fish intake

IRISH people are 50 times more likely to develop depression than the Japanese because we don't eat enough fish, a conference was told in Dublin yesterday. Professor Michael Crawford, director of the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition, at London Metropolitan University, suggested that dependence on a meat and wheat-based diet is resulting in a significant rise in brain ill-health in the Western world.

"Currently, just over 50% of the Irish population eats fish at least once a week," said Prof Crawford, a Bord lascaigh Mhara-sponsored keynote speaker at the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute conference. His key message to the Irish is to eat more fish and substantially lessen their risk of developing mental health problems. Prof Crawford's prediction of an escalation in mental health disorders being linked to diet was originally made as far back as 1972.

Mental health is the leading medical health problem in the European Union, where it takes 25% of the €386 billion healthcare bill. He said the rise in brain disorders and mental health problems associated with Omega 3 deficiency is "the most pressing health issue of the 21st century". "Forget obesity mental health is the real disaster already beginning to happen. We are seeing more and more scientific evidence linking brain disorders and diet. "For example, researchers now know women suffering from post-natal depression pro- duce breast milk that is very low in DHA the boss of the Omega 3 family.

"Similarly, preliminary research into Alzheimer's disease shows sufferers are also losing this critical DHA from their brain," he said. Prof Crawford said our brain is made of marine fats. If we do not feed it the food it requires to remain healthy fish and specifically Omega 3 fats then we are looking at serious brain problems like depression, bi-polar disorder and childhood behavioural problems like ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia. Cautioning against relying on Omega 3 supplements or Omega 3-enhanced food products, he said supplements are OK as an emergency measure, but the best source of Omega 3 fatty acids is to be found in seafood.

BIM has meanwhile produced a series of information booklets aimed to boost consumer awareness of the benefits of eating seafood as part of a healthy balanced diet. Further information on these leaflets is available from www.bim.ie