Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements May Help You Feel Less Angry and Irritable

  • New research has found that intake of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce aggression and violent outbursts.
  • The study found that omega-3 supplements could reduce aggression by 30%.
  • Experts say omega-3 has an anti-inflammatory effect on the brain and enhances the production of dopamine and serotonin.
  • To increase your omega-3 intake, you can take a supplement or eat more foods like fatty fish, extra virgin olive oil, and walnuts.

If you rarely feel angry, irritable, or aggressive, then omega-3 could be a contributing factor.

New research has found that people who take omega-3 supplements like fish oil or who get enough omega-3 fatty acids from eating foods that contain them may be less prone to aggressive and violent outbursts.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that commonplace omega-3 supplements reduced aggression by 30%, regardless of age or gender.

The meta-analysis of 29 randomized controlled trials showed that omega-3 reduced both reactive aggression, which is behavior in response to a provocation, and proactive aggression, which is planned.

“The study’s findings — indicating that omega-3 may reduce aggression and violent outbursts — align with existing knowledge about the critical role of these nutrients in brain health,” says Stefanie Daniels, a registered nutritional therapist who was not involved in the study. “While intriguing, it’s not surprising given the link between omega-3s, inflammation reduction, and neurotransmitter function.”

Daniels says these findings underscore the huge impact diet and nutrition can have on behavior and emotional regulation.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that our bodies need but cannot produce on their own, so we must get them from the diet.

They’re crucial for various body functions, such as reducing inflammation, supporting brain health, and maintaining heart health.

Daniels says they also help keep cell membranes flexible and are vital for brain development and function, influencing mood and behavior.

She points to four main reasons that omega-3s appear to have this effect on aggression. Firstly, they are anti-inflammatory.

“Chronic inflammation in the brain is linkedTrusted Source to mood disorders and aggressive behavior, and omega-3s (particularly EPA and DHA) help reduce this inflammation,” she explains.

“By decreasing inflammation, these fatty acids can support a more stable and balanced mood.”

Psychiatrist and nutritional therapist Dr. Jennifer Kraker, MD, concurs.

She says the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s are important for mood because when our immune system responses are elevated, they can trigger biochemicals that produce excess excitatory responses in the brain.

“This is neurotoxic for the brain and causes irritability and, in those susceptible to it, aggression,” she explains. “Omega 3s work to inhibit this pathway.”

In addition, omega-3s enhance the production and function of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, both of which are crucial for regulating our mood.

Dysregulation of these neurotransmitters may leadTrusted Source to aggression. However, adequate nutrition may help support these neurotransmitters.

Omega-3s may also maintain the integrity and fluidity of these membranes, which Daniels says is essential for efficient communication between brain cells.

“This contributes to better emotional regulation and a decrease in aggressive behavior,” she explains.

The fourth reason omega-3s may play a role in reducing aggression is related to HPA axis modulation.

“The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis controls the body’s response to stress, and omega-3s help modulate this axis, leading to a more balanced stress response and decreased tendency towards aggression,” Daniels explains.

Omega-3s may provide other brain health benefits in addition to reducing aggression.

Daniels says thanks to their anti-inflammatory and neurotransmitter-modulating effects, they may reduce anxiety and depression.

Additionally, omega-3s could protect against cognitive decline. “DHA helps maintain cognitive function and may reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases,” Daniels explains.

They could also enhance neurodevelopment.

“In children, omega-3s support brain development and cognitive performance, potentially reducing ADHD symptoms,” Daniels notes.

Now that you know omega-3s can enhance your mood and may reduce irritability, you might be wondering how to include more of them in your diet.

First things first, it’s a good idea to understand how much you need. Daniels says adults should aim for 0.6 – 3g of EPA and 0.15 – 2g/day of DHA.

While if you’re pregnant or nursing, you should consume 300-900 mg of DHA daily.

Kraker believes most Westerns are deficient in omega-3s.

“In my practice, if someone is deficient or insufficient in omega-3s, I tend to start with supplementation of at least 2 grams per day of a supplement, in addition to encouraging an increase in dietary sources,” she says.

Supplements can be a good place to start, but as Kraker suggests, you shouldn’t neglect your diet.

Both experts agree that including more fatty fish in your diet will help. Daniels recommends eating fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovy, sardines, and herring in your meals at least twice a week

Extra virgin olive oil is a good source of omega-3 too. “Add extra virgin olive oil to smoothies, salad dressings or drizzle over cooked vegetables for a plant-based omega-3 boost,” Daniels advises.

You might like to swap out your snacks to up your omega-3 intake. Daniels says walnuts are a great source of ALA.

“Enjoy them as a snack or add them to salads or your morning berry bowl,” she suggests.

Finally, chow down on chia seeds. “They are little powerhouses that are rich in ALA and also provide fiber,” says Daniels. “Sprinkle chia seeds on yogurt or blend into smoothies.”