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Wednesday 26th October 2016

Fish lessens stress effects

27th July 2009

A new study has shown that ingredients found in fish oil and walnuts could mediate the body's response to stress.


A psychologist from the Ohio State University College of Medicine found that stress and negative emotions can have an adverse effect on the immune system, making us more likely to get sick.

Writing in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser detailed evidence showing that stress can wreak havoc on the body.

Researchers in the field of psychoneuroimmunology have shown during studies in the past few decades how stress can affect health, by producing weaker immune responses in stressed individuals, Kiecolt-Glaser wrote in a review of the literature in the nascent field.

She said that the evidence that stress and distress impair vaccine responses had obvious public health relevance.

Stress and depression have been clearly linked to an increased risk of infection and slower healing of wounds.

Diet and environment should be taken into account when assessing the effects of stress on health.

The body removes harmful stimuli through a series of inflammatory processes, which also aids healing.

However, too much inflammation, which releases chemicals called proinflammatory cytokines, can lead to age-related diseases and even premature ageing.

According to Kiecolt-Glaser's study, negative emotions and psychological stressors increase the production of proinflammatory cytokines.

For example, men and women who serve as caregivers to spouses with dementia, a highly stressful role, had four times the proinflammatory chemicals in their blood as those who were not caregivers.

What's more, the levels did not go down with the death of the spouse, indicating an immune system which aged quicker under chronically elevated stress levels.

She also found evidence that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and walnuts might result in positive effects on mood and the immune system.

Environmental pollution from air pollution and pesticides might have the opposite effect, suppressing the immune system, according to the study.

Kiecolt-Glaser called for greater cross-disciplinary training to further this field of research, between psychologists and biologists and physiologists.

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