Fish oil might help treating depression
If you're feeling depressed, you might feel better if you take fish oil supplements.
To investigate if omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the symptoms of depression, researchers tested a fish-oil capsule with a high ratio of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), providing 1,050 milligrams per day of the former and 150 mg per day of the latter. All 432 patients in the study had been diagnosed with at least moderate depression. About 40 percent were already on antidepressants. The researchers randomly assigned patients to take either the fish-oil capsules or a placebo containing vegetable oil every day for eight weeks. At the beginning of the study and several points throughout, patients completed a standard questionnaire gauging the severity of depression symptoms.
When the researchers looked at the results , there was no clear difference between fish oil and placebo. But among anxiety-free patients, symptoms improved significantly more with fish-oil than with the placebo. Patients with anxiety disorders - such as generalised anxiety, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder and panic disorder - did not do better on fish oil. Taking anti-depressants, or not taking them, did not affect the results. Some patients in the study, but not all, got relief from the omega 3 fatty acids in the fish oil. The ones who did improve - about half the group - were those who didn't also have a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder.
Some research has suggested that the fatty acids are involved in the function of certain brain chemicals linked to depression. It's also possible that the anti-inflammatory effects of fish oil are at work, according to the researchers.
The study is the largest so far to test the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on depression symptoms. Still the ultimate role of fish oil in treating depression remains unclear. Further clinical trials - including ones that compare fish oil with antidepressant therapy - are required.