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March 10, 2011 06:10 PM

Omega 3s Could Affect A Soldier's Mood

Sioux Falls, SD

A KELOLAND researcher is on the front lines of battling depression in our military.

With 300,000 vets from Iraq and Afghanistan showing symptoms of major depression, a simple change in diet could help improve the soldier’s mood.

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders and unfortunately can be a side effect of serving our country.

But can simply changing their diet, improve the mood of military members that are suffering? One military doctor thinks it's a possibility.

“His interest is in trying to find ways to reduce the risk for depression and suicide in American soldiers,” Sanford Researcher Dr. Bill Harris said. 

Harris, who focuses on how Omega 3s can improve our health, was asked to help find answers.

“We think a low level of Omega 3s in the blood is like, it's a risk factor for we think heart disease for sure, but potentially for mental diseases as well,” Harris said.

A small group of soldiers were chosen for the pilot study that first asked the service men and women to take a cognitive test focusing on mood. Their blood was then tested to check for Omega 3 levels.

“If they scored at a certain at risk level they were then given a fish oil or a placebo,” Harris said.

All the testing for the study is done right here in Sioux Falls at a business called OmegaQuant. It's a company Dr. Harris started just a few years ago.

A soldier's blood sample is sent right to the lab and a test Harris developed called the Omega 3 Index can tell whether or not the soldier is deficient.

“If it turns out that a low Omega 3 level in the blood is contributing to increased susceptibility to depression or mood disorders, then the army could institute a program where starting in basic training they'd give, they're probably gonna give fish, but they could get fish oil supplements,” Harris said.

And those Omega 3s won't just help those serving our country, but can also improve your health.

By eating fatty fish like salmon, sardines and albacore tuna- or by simply taking one of the many fish oil supplements on the market - we could be making a positive change for our hearts and our brains.

“You can easily fish it without taking any drugs, without having to change your lifestyle in a huge way. And you can make a big impact,” Harris said.

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