Fish oil which contains Omega-3 fatty acids helps to boost brain functions and acts as an anti-inflammatory within the body -- helping athletes and soldiers manage intense training better, finds a study.
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Low concentration of fish oil in the blood and also lack of physical activity may contribute to the high levels of depressed mood among soldiers returning from combat, the study suggested.
Fish oil content is especially important for soldiers due to the consistent training and physical regiments performed in and out of combat and risk of traumatic brain injury.
For the study, published in the journal Military Medicine, researchers worked with 100 soldiers to identify which factors affected the moods of those returning from combat.
"We looked at how physical activity levels and performance measures were related to mood state and resiliency. 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," said Richard Kreider, Researcher at the Texas A and M University.
The study originated from research that 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.
According to the researchers, these findings are significant toward addressing some of the issues many soldiers face.
"The mental health of soldiers is a serious concern and it is exciting to consider that appropriate diet and exercise might have a direct impact on improving resiliency," said Nicholas Barringer, Researcher at the Texas A and M University.
In order to properly measure soldiers physically, Kreider and Barringer developed a formula that has the potential to assist in effectively screening soldiers with potential post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) ahead of time.
The formula measures a number of factors including fitness and psychometric assessments, physical activity and additional analysis.
"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," Barringer added.
"The military is using some of our exercise, nutrition, and performance-related work and the findings may help identify soldiers at risk for depression when they return from combat tours," Kreider added.
The study mentioned that by working to identify such high-risk issues faced by soldiers, it can set a precedent that will benefit not only the military leadership, but also the general public.