Omega 3 Supplements Fight Depression in Largest Trial to Date
Scientists are encouraged by results of a large clinical trial showing Omega 3 fatty acids can help treat depression unaccompanied by anxiety. The study is the largest trial to date showing that Omega 3 supplements could be an effective remedy for major depression.
Initial results showed that not all patients enrolled in the study with depression experienced relief of symptoms – but when scientists separated study participants with anxiety they found Omega 3 supplements improved depression symptoms to the same extent as antidepressants.
For the study, 432 male and female participants with major unipolar depression were given either placebo that tasted like fish oil but contained sunflower oil, or fish oil capsules with high concentrations of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), the essential fatty acid in omega 3 fish oil. The analysis took place from October 2005 to January 2009 as part of a collaborative effort from Canadian researchers and led by Dr. François Lespérance of the Centre de recherché du Centre hospitalier at the Université de Montréal (CRCHUM). The study included many patients whose depression was unresponsive to conventional treatment with antidepressant medications.
According to Dr Lespérance, "Despite significant progress in neuroscience over the past two decades, depression is difficult to treat.” He notes that many patient stop taking antidepressant medications because of side effects, adding that depression has become a major public health issue among Canadians. Some patients refuse to take antidepressant medications because for fear of being stigmatized, seeking alternative treatments. “Many of these treatments have not been adequately evaluated. That is why it was important to assess the efficacy of Omega-3, one of the most popular alternative approaches," he added.
The study participants were given an Omega 3 supplement called OM3 Emotional Balance that is free of impurities, 3 capsules a day that delivered 1050 mg of EPA and 150 mg of DHA daily. The effect of higher doses of Omega 3 supplement is unknown.
Past studies have suggested that Omega 3 fatty acids from fish or supplements could help fight depression, but larger controlled trials were needed to show that polyunsaturated fatty acid deficit in the body can lead to psychological disorders. Omega 3 supplements given for eight weeks lowered symptoms of depression in the study participants. The researchers say more studies are needed to directly compare the findings with conventional antidepressant medication.
University of Montreal