Low concentration of fish oil in the blood contribute to the high levels of depressed mood among soldiers returning from combat, according to researchers.

In a Texas A&M University study, researchers worked with 100 soldiers at Fort Hood to identify which factors affected moods in returning soldiers. “We looked at how physical activity levels and performance measures were related to mood state and resiliency,” study leader Richard Kreider says. “What we found was the decrease in physical activity and the concentration of fish oil and omega-3s in the blood were all associated with resiliency and mood. Fish oil contains Omega-3 fatty acids that boost brain function and act as an anti-inflammatory within the body - helping athletes and soldiers manage intense training better. Fish oil content is especially important for soldiers due to the consistent training and physical regimens performed in and out of combat and risk to traumatic brain injury."

The study originated from research conducted by Colonel Mike Lewis, M.D. who examined omega-3 fatty acid levels of soldiers who committed suicide compared to non-suicide control and found lower omega-3 levels in the blood were associated with increased risk of being in the suicide group. “The mental health of our service members is a serious concern and it is exciting to consider that appropriate diet and exercise might have a direct impact on improving resiliency,” note the researchers. “By improving resiliency in service members, we can potentially decrease the risk of mental health issues. Early identification can potentially decrease the risk of negative outcomes for our active service members as well as our separated and retired military veterans.”

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