Fish Oil And Depression

A number of studies have established a therapeutic link between Omega 3, such as is found in fish oil, and depression.

You may already know about the importance of Omega 3 fatty acids because they play (or, in some cases, may play) a role in the prevention and/or treatment of the following health conditions:

Fish Oil And Depression

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Asthma
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Eczema
  • High blood pressure
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Lupus
  • Migraine headaches
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Obesity
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

To that list, you can add: depression.

Depression, as we all know, is a gigantic and growing health problem. It is now the world’s fourth leading cause of illness and death and it is expected to move up to the number two position by 2020. In the United States, alone, depression affects approximately 15 million people.

Studies Of Omega 3 And Depression

Studies have shown that people with depression often have low levels of the Omega 3 fatty acids known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Other studies have shown that depression decreases as levels of Omega-3 increase.

A 2009 report published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that adding fish oil supplements to standard care appears to benefit people with major depression.

In another study, researchers gave magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests to study participants who recorded everything they ate during the test period. The study concluded that the more DHA a person consumed, the more gray matter there was in three areas of the brain linked to mood: the amygdala, the hippocampus and the cingulate.

In another 2009 research study, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, investigators reviewed 28 studies and found that use of fish oil supplements was linked to significant improvement in major depression and bipolar disorder. (The review also concluded that Omega-3 supplements were more effective as a depression therapy than as a way to prevent depression.)

Fish Oil And DepressionA Canadian study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry is the largest double-blind, randomized control trial ever conducted on Omega 3 and depression. The researchers found that the men and women who had depression without an anxiety disorder showed a statistically significant benefit from fish oil supplements.

Yet another study, published in the February 2011 issue of European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, concluded that there was a significant reduction in the symptoms of depression by participants who took daily omega-3 supplements over a period of six months.

Among the conclusions of that study is that Omega 3 supplements are a more effective treatment of mild to moderate depression than placebos for people over the age of 65.

There are also studies showing that proper intake of these essential fats may help ward off postpartum depression.

Still other studies suggest that fish oil may help treat depression related to specific health issues. For instance, in a 2009 study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, scientists discovered that taking EPA supplements for eight weeks helped lessen depressive symptoms among women undergoing menopause.

Conclusions About Omega 3 And Depression

More studies are needed on the relationship of Omega 3 and depression. However, there is already sufficient scientific research to conclude that Omega 3 supplements can be helpful for people with depression (or bipolar disorder).

You should not self-treat and fish oil is not a substitute for medical treatment for depression or any other mood disorder.

However, there is a therapeutic link between Omega 3 and depression and Omega 3 can be an effective complement to standard treatment for depression.

Return to the fish oil facts home page from fish oil and depression.