Antioxidants are produced by the body and consumed in diets rich with fruits and vegetables. In a perfect world, there should always be a balance between oxidative stress and antioxidant levels in the body. But any imbalance in favor of the former (because of environmental or psychological stressors, diets deficient in fruits and vegetables, or heavy training) can lead to a state of elevated oxidative stress. In humans, imbalance between reactive oxygen production and antioxidants is involved in the generation and progression of more than a hundred pathologic conditions. Yikes!
Moreover, the high metabolic activity of the brain makes it susceptible to oxidative stress and neuronal damage. In other words, chronic psychological stress and depression promote increases in oxidative stress throughout the body (including the brain), which can lead to a snowball effect and make depressive symptoms even worse.
The antidote to this damaging oxidation?
The omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both of which are considered essential because we must get them from the diet. Fish oil contains high levels of EPA and DHA and provides serious protection against oxidative stress. This, combined with data that omega-3 fatty acids are found in high abundance in the brain, has sparked interest in the relationship between omega-3s and depressive disorders.
See also Fish Oil and Muscle Growth
A recent study published in The Journal of Nutrition tested the blood levels of DHA and EPA and biomarkers of oxidative stress in a population of men and women susceptible to depression. It was concluded that subjects who had high levels of oxidative stress had an inverse relationship between DHA and EPA and depressive symptoms. Simply put, subjects who consumed the most omega-3 fatty acids were the least depressed.
ACTION POINT: If you train hard, follow a restricted diet and are subjected to mental stress, you may want to consider taking a high-quality omega-3 fatty-acid supplement — fish oil. Look for products that have high levels of EPA and DHA, and take approximately 3,000 milligrams of combined EPA and DHA daily. For best absorption, separate your daily intake into three doses and take with meals.