Does Omega 3 supplementation help with depression?

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Omega 3 supplements are widely available over the counter and are sold with various claims.

There are many studies looking at omega 3 supplementation for different conditions such as depressed mood, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, adhd, etc.

My self and many psychiatrists will often discuss potential benefits of EPA fish oil Omega 3 supplementation in certain cases.

A recent meta analysis (study of studies) looked at omega 3 supplements and major depressive disorder, a specific type of depressive disorder (1).

What did the study involve?

  • The study authors (1) looked at 1,955 studies, the study authors identified 1233 individuals from 15 studies with major depressive disorder who were given omega 3 supplements.
  • Study authors (1) factored out studies with design flaws, limitations, or other biases.

What were some of the results (1)?

  • After adjusting for many variables, taking potential publication bias into account, this review article found that Omega 3 fatty acids were found to be helpful for Major depressive disorder. (1)
  • Higher doses of EPA Omega 3’s were associated with better outcomes.(1)
  • Participants taking EPA Omega 3’s with antidepressant also benefited. (1)
  • DHA (another type of Omega 3) to EPA ratio and DHA dose did not make a difference in Major Depressive disorder symptoms. (1)

What are some caveats about Omega 3 from fish oil?

  • Omega 3s from non seafood sources may not have the same brain impact has seafood based omega 3’s.
  • Not all antidepressants have been studied with EPA Omega 3 supplements.
  • Long term effects of high dose EPA (which is a sub-type of Omega 3) is not known.
  • At this time, there is not a widely standardized way predict who will see mood benefits from Omega 3 supplementation.
  • While the exact dose of EPA Omega 3’s have not been identified for everyone, the studies cited in this review (1)used a dose range of upto 4400mg per day.
  • To prevent any interactions with your medications, it may be best to check with your prescriber before starting fish oil Omega 3 supplementation.
  • Medicine and supplements are not a replacement for unhealthy lifestyle habits.
  • This was a helpful study for individuals with major depression, and further study is warranted for other conditions and combination of conditions.

What are some additional resources?

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. Mocking RJT, et. al. Meta-analysis and meta-regression of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for major depressive disorder.  Translational Psychiatry (2016) 6, e756; doi:10.1038/tp.2016.29 Published online 15 March 2016