Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Can They Treat Depression?
Are the omega-3s in fish oils a good treatment for depression? Several studies have looked at omega-3s as a treatment for the symptoms of depression – with mixed results. Now a new study from the Tehran University School of Medical Sciences raises new hope that omega-3 fatty acids could lift the veil of depression, at least for older people.
Omega-3 and Depression
Researchers in Tehran found that seniors who took one gram fish oil capsule containing 300 milligrams of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA for six months had better depression scores than a group taking a placebo. DHA and EPA are omega-3s found in fish oil supplements and in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel.
This new data comes on the wake of controversy as to the role of omega-3 fatty acids in depression treatment. If omega-3 fatty acids really do help depression, there are questions about how much a person needs to take and who is most likely to benefit.
One study showed that giving one gram of a single omega-3 fatty acid, EPA, with the anti-depressant fluoxetine improved depression scores significantly. Despite this, experts warn there’s not enough evidence to recommend using omega-3 supplements specifically to treat depression since not all studies show they help.
Omega-3 for Depression: Why Might They Work?
The omega-3 fatty acid DHA plays a critical role in brain health. It helps to maintain fluidity of brain cell membranes and allows brain cells to communicate more effectively with each other. Omega-3s also alter the function of proteins involved in inflammation as well as hormones that impact brain function. The exact role of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of depression is unknown, but there’s little doubt that omega-3s are essential for a healthy brain.
Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Depression: The Bottom Line?
With so much conflicting data, most doctors don’t feel comfortable recommending omega-3 fatty supplements specifically as a treatment for depression. On the other hand, omega-3s have many other health benefits, and they may reduce the risk of heart disease. So talk to your doctor about taking them if you’re depressed, as long as you’re not taking blood thinners and you don’t have a history of a bleeding disorder.
Nutraingredients-USA.com. “Omega-3 may improve depression measures for seniors”
Natural News. “Brain health dramatically improved by intake of omega-3 fatty acids and fish oils”
Written by Kristie.Leong.M.D