Omega 3's no help for depressed heart patients

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Low levels of omega 3 fatty acids are linked to both depression and increased risk of heart disease. Some studies show that omega 3 fatty acids can also treat depression in combination with antidepressant drug therapy. But results of a new study show that supplementing with omega 3 is no help for depressed heart patients.

The finding that omega 3 fatty acids are no benefit for patients with depression and coronary heart disease is published in the October 21 issue of JAMA. The study included 122 patients receiving the antidepressant sertraline (Zoloft) in combination with either placebo or 2 grams daily (2000mg) of omega 3 ethyl esters, EPA and DHA for ten weeks.

Measurement of depression was performed using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II) and the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D). The researchers found no difference in depression and anxiety between heart patients given omega 3 fatty acids and those given placebo – both groups experienced less depression.


The authors concluded, “Whether higher doses of EPA, DHA, or sertraline, a longer duration of treatment, or the use of omega-3 as monotherapy can improve depression in patients with stable heart disease remains to be determined.”

According to background information, "In depressed psychiatric patients who are otherwise medically well, some studies have indicated that augmentation with omega-3 fatty acids dramatically improves the efficacy of antidepressants."

The current study, conducted by Robert M. Carney, Ph.D., of Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, and colleagues shows that omega 3 fatty acids were no help for treating depression in the patients with heart disease and on antidepressant therapy.

JAMA. 2009; 302[15]:1651-1657