Could Fish Oil Help Cut Military Suicides?

Sep 21, 2011 2:15pm

Could a component in fish oil help lower the high rates of suicide in soldiers? While it’s still too early to tell, the Army seems interested in finding out.

As detailed in an article in USA Today, researchers from the National Institutes of Health measured the blood levels of the omega-3 fatty acid known as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA for short) in two groups of military personnel — those who had committed suicide, and those who had not.

What they found was that, among men in the service, those who had low DHA levels were 62 percent more likely to have committed suicide. The findings were published last month in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

The authors stopped short of suggesting that using fish oil supplements would necessarily cut military suicide rates, and they emphasize that more research is needed before passing out omega-3s can be considered an effective approach.

Still, considering the pervasive problem of military suicides, some top brass are scrambling for a solution.

“I’m all over it, because I’m looking for something to help,” Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff, told USA Today.

Chiarelli, who has been looking for ways to cut military suicide numbers for years, is not alone in recognizing the problem. Last year, 159 active duty military servicemembers killed themselves — a downtick from the record high of 162 such suicides in 2009. But more National Guardsmen and Army reservists are committing suicide too, with 145 killing themselves last year.

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