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Omega-3 Acids May Prevent Suicide Among Veterans and Military Personnels

Update Date: Oct 09, 2012 08:38 AM EDT

According to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, there were 17,754 suicide attempts among veterans last year and in July this year, 26 active-duty soldiers are believed to have committed suicide, the most ever recorded in a month since the U.S. Army began tracking such deaths.

With regard to the steep rise in the number of service members attempting to commit suicide, a study is set to begin in South Carolina in January, as a part of the Defense Department's heightened focus on suicide prevention, Chicago Tribune reports.

According to researchers, the study is aimed at investigating if regular doses of Omega-3 fatty acids could help curb the number of suicides among military personnel and veterans.

Omega-3 fatty acids will be administered to 320 at-risk military personnel and veterans as first part of the study, said researcher Ron Acierno, director of the post-traumatic stress disorder clinic at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Charleston.

Omega-3, which is found in fish oil and not produced by the human body, can repair and regenerate brain cells. "The thinking is that the areas of the brain that are affected by this lack of a regenerative advantage of omega-3 also play a role in depression and other emotional disorders, and by proxy, suicide," Acierno said.

The people who are considered 'at-risk' are the ones who have already spoken about suicide and will also those with alcohol problems, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

The participants will be given commercially available Omega-3 acids.

"It doesn't taste like medicine at all," he said. "Here you have a very cheap intervention with very few side effects that could have significant impacts."

The study will be conducted by researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,on an average, about 100 Americans kill themselves every day and 8 million plus adults in U.S. have thought about suicide in the last year.

"The problem of suicide is big," Acierno said. "But the problem of suicidality is massive, and that is having these suicidal thoughts. We don't want people to even have these thoughts or, if they are having them, to not have them as frequently."

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