Food and Nutrition

Omega-3 Supplements Can Reduce Depression Symptoms

| by Toni Brayer MD

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry has shown that supplementing Omega-3 fatty acids (FFA) can significantly reduce symptoms for patients with major depression. This study looked at 432 adult patients (mean age 46 years, 68.5% female) and randomized them to receive either 8 weeks of omega 3 FFA or placebo. 40% of the patients were also taking antidepressants when they started the study.

The results strongly showed that the patients who got the Omega 3 FFas had significantly reduced symptoms of depression compared to the placebo group. Of interest is that patients with anxiety and depression did not improve with the Omega 3 supplements, only the patients with depression and no anxiety.

I have extolled the benefits of Omega 3 FFA supplements many times on EverythingHealth for treatment of hypertriglyceridemia and cardiovascular protection and I mentioned it for depressive symptoms also. These essential fatty acids are not made in the body, but must be consumed from food. The average American is completely out of balance with too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3 in our modern diets. Our brains and immune system depend upon essential fatty acids to function.

The next study that needs to be done is to compare Omega 3 FFA supplements with antidepressants in a head to head trial. Until that time, clinicians could start treating depressed patients with Omega 3 supplements and see if the symptoms are relieved before they jump to antidepressants, with the caveat that anxiety disorders (which often accompany depression) were not improved with the supplement alone.

Diet: To boost your intake of fatty acids, eat more walnuts, spinach, flax seeds, and omega-3 enriched eggs. Salmon, herring and sardines have the most Omega 3 FFAs,  but all fish supply some.

Full disclosure: I take Omega 3 FFA every day as a preventive and for good health.

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