Continuing the topic of depression, this week I will focus on the role of omega 3 essential fatty acids. First a correction – of the two Omega 3s it is EPA that is most significant in treating depression, not DHA as stated last week. In fact a study published in 2003 in the Am J. Psychiatry found no benefit to depression with DHA alone.
The largest controlled study to date on the effects of fish oil on depression was published in June of this year in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry by researchers from McGill U. (Montreal), U. Laval (Quebec City), and Queen’s U. (Kingston). 432 subjects were given 1050 mg of EPA and 150 DHA or a placebo for 8 weeks. For uni-polar depression unaccompanied by anxiety disorder, improvement in depression symptoms was comparable with conventional treatment (without the side effects like sexual dysfunction). There was no improvement, however, in those with anxiety disorder (which supports my argument last week that depression is a complex condition with many factors that need to be addressed).
A previous study in the U.K (Arch. Gen. Psychiatry, 2002) suggests that 1,000 mg of EPA is sufficient. Subjects with depression were given 1g, 2g and 4g of EPA for 12 weeks. The best results occurred in the 1g group with about 75% of the subjects reporting significant improvements in depressive symptoms including anxiety, sleep, libido and suicidal thoughts. Significantly all of the subjects in this study had persistent depression which had not responded to antidepressant drugs.
This large study only confirms the positive results from many previous smaller clinical trials. Long term studies of fish oil supplementation for cardiovascular health have proven their safety. People suffering from depression should ask their physician about adding an Omega 3 supplement to their program.
This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.