Capt Joseph Hibbeln, MD

Joseph R Hibbeln M.D. (CAPT, USPHS Ret.)
Psychiatrist, Nutritional Neuroscientist, and Benjamin Meaker
Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of Bristol, UK.


Dr. Joseph R. Hibbeln is world-renowned for his pioneering research into the role of omega-3 fatty acids in brain health, and the relevance of nutrition for the prevention and management of psychiatric disorders.

He was one of the very first investigators to flag the importance of adequate dietary omega-3 intakes for mental wellbeing, carrying out cross-national comparisons of seafood consumption in relation to psychiatric disorders, organizing a key international conference on this theme at the US National Institutes of Health in 1998, and originating the field of omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies in relation to depression.

His extensive international collaborations have included:

  • Primary collaborator in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, Bristol, UK, examining the residual effect of nutritional insufficiencies in pregnancy in childhood neurodevelopmental outcomes and relevant gene-nutrient interactions;
  • Lead author on the Lancet 2007 publication of pioneering findings from that dataset - which contributed to multiple US agencies reconsidering their dietary guidelines on fish and seafood intakes in pregnancy. Dr. Hibbeln recently was invited to present to the US National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine to re-evaluate current US Dietary Advice;
  • Providing key input to major systematic reviews and meta-analyses of clinical trials, leading to the establishment of professional treatment guidelines on the use of omega-3 for depression and other psychiatric disorders;
  • Clinical trials of omega-3 for the prevention of suicide, postpartum depression, and antisocial behaviour, including violence;
  • Numerous experimental studies documenting the biochemical, pharmacological and physical effects of changing dietary fat intakes, and their physical and mental health implications.

His specialist research areas include the role of omega-3 in depressive and aggressive disorders, and the benefits of fish consumption during pregnancy for children’s brain development – which all the available evidence shows include higher IQ, better psychological and motor skills and more optimal emotional regulation and social behaviours.

Now working as a practicing adult psychiatrist with Mindful Health Solutions in El Dorado Hills, California, Dr. Hibbeln is now directly treating people struggling with major depression, bipolar disorders, aggression, ADHD and addictions. He has a special interest in nutritional psychiatry – as he considers that understanding how dietary and nutritional factors can affect both the mind and body, and ensuring adequate brain nutrition, is likely to improve responses to psychiatric medications and other interventions, such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. Brain nutrition is crucial to holistic forms of treatment tailored to the individual’s needs. He feels it is critical to ensure that everyone’s brain receives adequate and fundamental nutritional support to optimized their overall mental health.

Dr Hibbeln’s extensive research knowledge and experience, his public advocacy, together with his outstanding expertise as a speaker and communicator for public and professional as well as academic audiences, place him in high demand to communicate scientific findings in this field, in addition to his ongoing research collaborations.

Recent Speaking Events

See FAB's recent webinar with Dr Hibbeln.

Critical Brain Nutrients

Healthy brain development and function depends on adequate supplies of certain critical nutrients that must come from dietary sources.

The richest source of these brain-essential nutrients is seafood - consumed for millions of years during the evolution of the nervous system - but now lacking from many diets...

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News Articles:

Low DHA Levels Linked to Increased Suicide Risk
Medscape - 26 August 2011
Low levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the major omega-3 fatty acid concentrated in the brain, may increase suicide risk, new research suggests.

New Science Links Food and Happiness
By Rachael Moeller Gorman, "Captain of the Happier Meal," - May/June 2010
Joe Hibbeln, MD, believes our diet is making us depressed, addicted and violent. He thinks he’s found a simple solution. 

Research Papers:

Steer CD, Hibbeln JR, Golding J, Smith GD (2011). Polyunsaturated fatty acid levels in blood during pregnancy, at birth and at 7 years: their associations with two common FADS2 polymorphisms. Hum Mol Genet. 2011 Dec 21

Ramsden CE, Hibbeln JR, Majchrzak-Hong SF (2011). All PUFAs are not created equal: absence of CHD benefit specific to linoleic acid in randomized controlled trials and prospective observational cohorts. World Rev Nutr Diet. 2011;102:30-43. Epub 2011 Aug 5.  

Buydens-Branchey L, Branchey M, Hibbeln JR (2011). Higher n-3 fatty acids are associated with more intense fenfluramine-induced ACTH and cortisol responses among cocaine-abusing men. Psychiatry Res. 2011 Aug 15;188(3):422-7. Epub 2011 Jun 11.

Ramsden CE, Mann JD, Faurot KR, Lynch C, Imam ST, MacIntosh BA, Hibbeln JR, Loewke J, Smith S, Coble R, Suchindran C, Gaylord SA (2011). Low omega-6 vs. low omega-6 plus high omega-3 dietary intervention for chronic daily headache: protocol for a randomized clinical trial.  Trials. 2011 Apr 15;12:97.

Blasbalg TL, Hibbeln JR, Ramsden CE, Majchrzak SF, Rawlings RR (2011). Changes in consumption of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the United States during the 20th century. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 May;93(5):950-62. Epub 2011 Mar 2.

Harper KN, Hibbeln JR, Deckelbaum R, Quesenberry CP Jr, Schaefer CA, Brown AS (2011). Maternal serum docosahexaenoic acid and schizophrenia spectrum disorders in adult offspring.  Schizophr Res. 2011 May;128(1-3):30-6. Epub 2011 Feb 15.

Ramsden CE, Hibbeln JR, Majchrzak SF, Davis JM. (2010). Br J Nutr. 2010 Dec;104(11):1586-600.PMID: 21118617. n-6 Fatty acid-specific and mixed polyunsaturate dietary interventions have different effects on CHD risk: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.

Hibbeln JR, Davis JM, Steer C, P Emmett P, Rogers I, Williams C, Golding J. (2007) Maternal seafood consumption during pregnancy and neurodevelopmental outcomes in childhood. The Lancet, 369: 578-585

Garland MR, Hallahan B, McNamara M, Carney PA, Grimes H, Hibbeln JR, Harkin A, Controy RM. (2007) Lipids and essential fatty acids in patients presenting with self-harm. Br J Psychiatry, 190: 112-17.

Freeman MP, Hibbeln JR, Davis, JM, Wisner KL, Richardson AJ, Mischoulon D, Peet M, Keck, Jr. PE, Lake J, Marangell L, Stoll AL. (2006) Omega-3 fatty acids: Evidence basis for treatment and future research. American Psychiatric Association Treatment Recommendations J Clin Psychiatry, 67; 12: 1954-67.

Sublette ME, Hibbeln JR, Galfalvy H, Oquendo M, Mann JJ. (2006) Omega-3 polyunsaturated essential fatty acid status as a predictor of future suicide risk. Am J Psychiatry, 163: 1100-1102.

Hibbeln JR, Nieminen LR, Blasbalg TL Riggs J, Lands WEM. Healthy intakes of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids: Estimations considering worldwide diversity. (Invited manuscript), Am J Clin Nutr, 2006, 83: 1483S-1493S

Hibbeln JR, Ferguson TA Blasbalg TL. Omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies in neurodevelopment, aggression and autonomic dysregulation: Opportunities for Intervention. Intl Review Psychiatry 2006; 18:2:1-12.

Freeman MP, Hibbeln JR, Wisner KL, Brumbach BH, Watchman M, Gelenberg AJ. (2006). Randomized dose-ranging pilot trial of omega-3 fatty acids for postpartum depression. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 113(1) 31-5

Crawford MA, Ghebremeskel K, Hibbeln JR, House S, Hunter D, Morley DC, Nicholson P, Stuart K. The Lancet and the Royal Society are both right and wrong. Lancet. 2005; 366 (9487): 714-5.

Hibbeln JR, Nieminen, LRG, Lands WEM Increasing homicide rates and linoleic acid consumption among five western countries, 1961-2000. Lipids 2004; 23: 1207-1213.

Hibbeln JR, Bisette, G, Umhau JC, George DT. (2004) Omega-3 status and cerebrospinal fluid corticotrophin releasing hormone in perpetrators of domestic violence. Biological Psychiatry 2004; 56:11: 895-897

Harris J, Hibbeln JR, Mackey R, Muldoon M. (2004). Statin treatment alters serum n-3 and n-6 fatty acids in hypercholesterolemic patients. Prost Leuko Ess Fatty Acids, 71: 263-269

Irribarren C, Markovitz JH, Jacobs. D, Schreiner PJ, Daviglus M, Hibbeln JR. Relationship of dietary intake of fish and n-3 fatty acids with hostility among young adults- the CARDIA Study. Eu J Clin Nutr 2004;58:1:24-31

Noaghiul S, Hibbeln JR. A cross-national analysis of the lifetime prevalence rates of bipolar disorders and schizophrenia to seafood consumption. Am J Psychiartry, 2003;160;12; 2222-7

Hibbeln JR. Seafood consumption, the DHA composition of mothers’ milk and prevalence of postpartum depression: a cross-national analysis. J Affect Disorders 2002; 69: 15-29