Can Omega-3 Fatty Acids Help With Depression?

Risa Groux, CN
 | Published: 
August 16, 2021

Depression is a major cause of disease burden worldwide, affecting approximately 350 million people. Although there are numerous medications for the treatment of depression, less than 50% of patients actually take these medications.

In a new double-blind, placebo controlled randomized clinical study published this month, researchers demonstrated the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids on body weight and depression. Obesity and depression many times coexist and often correlate with each other. Also, most individuals with insulin resistance and obesity are often deficient in essential fatty acids, and fish oils have been linked to improved insulin sensitivity.

This new study included 45 patients with obesity and depression. Each patient was randomized into one of two groups. One group consumes two fish oil softgels three times daily for a total of 1080 mg EPA and 720 mg of DHA and the other group consumed six capsules of a placebo for twelve weeks. Outcome assessments, including body composition, food craving questionnaire, and Beck depression inventory, were taken at baseline and weeks 2, 4, 8, and 12. To eliminate the effect of the diet, all patients received a weight loss diet of usual dietary intake and the research team controlled this by using intermittent three-day food records during the duration of the study. Also, to coordinate and control for the physical activity they had all patients adhere to 20 minutes of moderate physical activity which was recorded at every visit.

As a result, the omega-3 fatty acid group showed a significant reduction in depression compared to the placebo. In addition, weight reduction was also significant in the fish oil group.

A meta-analysis published in Translational Psychiatry in 2016 also demonstrated the importance and beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids in depression and showed that these effects seemed more significant in studies that included those who supplemented with higher doses of EPA.

Source: Keshavarz SA, Mostafavi SA, et al. Omega-3 supplementation effects on body weight and depression among dieter women with co-morbidity of depression and obesity compared with the placebo: A randomized clinical trial. Clin Nutr ESPEN 2018 Jun;25:37-43. doi: 10.1016/j.clnesp.2018.03.001. Epub 2018 Mar 17.

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