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Note: Seafood consumption is based on disappearance data calculated as catch plus imports minus exports. Prevalence rates of major depression are from the Epidemiological Catchment Area Study, with the exception of Japan, as described in Hibbeln (1998). Results of a simple persons linear regression that includes all countries is (r = -0.85, p < 0.0005) and that excludes Japan (r = -0.74, p < 0.03). These data do not demonstrate a causal relationship between seafood consumption and lower prevalence rates of major depression.

Note: Seafood consumption is based on disappearance data calculated as catch plus imports minus exports. Prevalence rates of major depression are from the Epidemiological Catchment Area Study, with the exception of Japan, as described in Hibbeln (1998). Results of a simple persons linear regression that includes all countries is (r = -0.85, p < 0.0005) and that excludes Japan (r = -0.74, p < 0.03). These data do not demonstrate a causal relationship between seafood consumption and lower prevalence rates of major depression.

The results of cross-national analysis comparing prevalence rate of major depression are consistent with results of epidemiological studies conducted within single countries. Tanskanen et al. (in press, 2000) studied a population of 1767 subjects within northern Finland and reported that subjects who consumed fish twice a week or more were at a lower risk of reporting depressive symptoms (odds ratio 0.63) and suicidal thinking (odds ratio 0.57) compared to infrequent fish consumers. Consistent with this report, Silvers and Scott (2000) also found that greater fish consumption predicted improved mental health status by self-report among 4644 subjects in New Zealand. An assessment of essential fatty acid status using direct tissue sampling has also yielded similar results in a community sample of 200 elderly subjects selected from a sample population of4500, representing 80% of the elderly people in 2 counties in Iowa (Hibbeln et al., unpublished data). Comparisons were made among the 50 most depressed men, the 50 most depressed women, 50 control men, and 50 control women. Depressed women had lower plasma concentrations of DHA, but no other fatty acid, compared to control women. Low plasma concentrations of plasma DHA alone also significantly predicted more severe sleep complaints and reports of anxiety among all groups (Hibbeln et al., unpublished data). DHA was the only plasma fatty acid measure or plasma cholesterol measure that was related to psychiatric symptoms. These cross-national and within-country observational studies are consistent with the hypothesis that low omega-3 status is associated with greater risk of depressive symptoms.

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