The current burden of psychological distress and illness poses as a significant barrier to optimal force efficacy. Here we assess nutrients in military diets, specifically highly unsaturated essential fatty acids, in the reduction of risk or treatment of psychiatric distress.

Moderate to strong evidence from several meta-analyses of prospective cohort trials indicate that Mediterranean diet patterns reduce risk of clinical depressions. Specific nutrients and foods of biological interest in relation to mental health outcomes are then discussed and evaluated. Moderate evidence indicates that when fish consumption decreases and simultaneously omega-6 increases, the risk of clinical depressive symptoms are elevated.

One meta-analysis examining tissue compositions provides moderate to strong evidence that higher levels of omega-3 highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFAs) (eicosapentaenoic acid, docosapentaenoic acid, and docosahexaenoic acid) are associated with decreased risk of clinical depressions. Other meta-analytic reviews of randomized placebo-controlled trials provide moderate to strong evidence of significantly improving clinically depressive symptoms when the formulation given was >50% in eicosapentaenoic acid.
Finally, a meta-analysis of omega-3 HUFAs provides modest evidence of clinical efficacy for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

This article recommends that a rebalancing of the essential fatty acid composition of U.S. military diets, achieve tissue compositions of HUFAs consistent with traditional Mediterranean diets, may help reduce military psychiatric distress and simultaneously increase force efficacy substantially.

PMID: 25373095

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