The people of Japan experience one of the lowest bipolar disorder rates in the civilized world. Compared to the 4.4 percent lifetime prevalence rate of bipolar disorder in the U.S., in Japan it’s just 0.07 percent. That’s no typo — that’s a crazy large difference.
So what gives? How come the Japanese have such a low rate of bipolar disorder compared with other high-income, developed nations?
In a word: fish.
There is a good, solid set of research studies that examine the link between brain health and Omega-3 fatty acids. While these studies can, by and large, only speak to the correlation between these two things, findings from these studies are pretty stable — and growing
Two things come to mind while reading this:
- Japan has natural lithium springs. Studies have shown people in those areas are happier & less stressed, the suicide rates are lower. The question has been asked what if we put lithium in the water here? IMHO, bad idea. Not least of all because it should be everyone’s choice if they want those chemicals or not, & lithium can build up in your system & damage your liver. Sure it would be a very minute dose if they put it in the water, but what if someone was already on lithium? Or a contraindicated med? Or just had an allergy?
- How much does Japan’s attitudes toward mental illness play into that difference? It’s possible Japan’s cases of Bipolar Disorder are underreported & mostly undiagnosed. On the flip side, I believe it’s likely BD is over-diagnosed here. Here is a 3yo article about a documentary on mental illness in Japan that shines a little more light on the subject. It doesn’t specifically mention BD, but it seems they may use different diagnoses (the director of the movie had been diagnosed with “burn out”). It also states nearly a quarter of people in Japan had experienced a mental health problem & they have a higher rate of suicides than in the US or the UK.
I have taken a fish, flax-seed, & borage oil supplement for several years. I can’t honestly say if it has made a difference or not. During that time I’ve also gone back on meds & into therapy (twice), moved back in with my dad in a hillbilly hell hole, & tried to kill myself. Would things have been worse if I wasn’t on it? Who knows. I do know they say it’s good for you for a variety of reasons & my last physical says I’m pretty healthy. I certainly don’t feel worse for taking it.
Anyone else have any input on fish oil or mental health in Japan?