Eating fish may help to curb depression, say researchers, with the the higher the intake, the greater the effect.

While noting the association between fish consumption and risk of depression is controversial, the researchers believe their meta-analysis (study which combines results of many other studies) provides the most comprehensive evaluation to date.

Their research, which includes 26 studies and more than 150,000 people, shows the more fish eaten, the lower the incidence of depression.

However, the researchers caution these findings are specific to Europe. The 3 Australian studies analysed for this research did not find there was an association, nor did the American or Asian papers.

Nonetheless, when pooling all the data together the results show a 17% reduction in depression risk in those eating fish.

While the exact biological mechanisms require more research to confirm, it has been proposed that the omega 3 fatty acids found in fish may alter the microstructure of brain membranes and modify the activity of the brain chemicals, dopamine and serotonin, which are involved in depression.

“In addition, high-quality protein, vitamins and minerals may have a protective effect on depression,” write the researchers from Qingdao University in China.

They suggest further studies should investigate whether this association varies according to the type of fish.

Last Reviewed: 17/09/2015

Reproduced with kind permission from


Fang Li, Xiaoqin Liu, Dongfeng Zhang. Fish consumption and risk of depression: a meta-analysis. J Epidemiol Community Health doi:10.1136/jech-2015-206278.