STARTLING new research has found that eating fish may help curb the risk of depression.The findings, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health,have found a link between mental health and a fishy diet.

However, the survey surprisingly found that the link was only true in Europe.

There has been speculation in the past about a link between a fish-rich diet and mental health, but previous research has been inconclusive.

Now scientists have pooled the data from various surveys carried out between 2001-2014 and have identified a definite link.

Analysis has revealed a 17 per cent reduction in depression risk between those eating the most fish and those eating the least. It is the latest survey identifying health and diet.

And there was a gender divide. Men had a 20 per cent lower risk compared to women, who had a 16 per cent risk.

Figures show that depression affects an estimated 350 million people worldwide, and is projected to become the second leading cause of ill health by 2020.

The role of a fish-rich diet could therefore be significant. And scientists have an idea why it could be important.

It has long been though that the omega 3 fatty acids found in fish may alter the microstructure of brain membranes and modify the activity of the neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin, both of which are thought to be involved in depression.

The writers add that the high quality protein, vitamins, and minerals found in fish may help stave off depression, while eating a lot of fish may be an indicator of a healthy and more nutritious diet.

“Higher fish consumption may be beneficial in the primary prevention of depression,” they conclude, adding: “Future studies are needed to further investigate whether this association varies according to the type of fish.”

But they were unable to identify reasons why their figures were only true in Europe.

They point out that this latest report is an observational study so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. And because it is based on previous research, fish consumption was measured using different dietary assessment methods across the various studies.

The author of the study, Professor Dongfeng Zhang, Department of Epidemiology and Health Statistics, Medical College of Qingdao University, Shandong, China, pointed out that subgroup analysis indicated that high fish consumption was associated with a significant reduced risk of depression only among studies conducted in Europe, but not others.

The Professor told BlastingNews: “This might because a smaller number of participants cannot reach statistical significance easily. Therefore more studies are needed to be conducted in other continents besides Europe to further confirm the association between fish consumption and depression risk in different continents.”

In all 26 studies were analysed, involving 150,278 participants. Ten of the studies involved European participants, seven were from North America and the rest were from Asia, Oceania and South America.