Omega 3 and stress

A previous post discussed Omega 3s and anxiety.

While the role of omega 3’s and inflammation has been studied(1), omega 3’s and stress is not as well studied.

This post discusses a study looking at Omega 3’s and stress reduction.

Who was in the study? (2)

138 sedentary, overweight, middle-aged participants (n = 93 women, n = 45 men) received either 2.5 g/d of omega-3, 1.25 g/d of omega-3, or a placebo for 4 months (2).

What was studied? (2)

  • Before and after the trial, participants underwent the Trier Social Stress Test.
  • Saliva and blood samples were collected once before and repeatedly after the stressor to measure salivary cortisol, telomerase in peripheral blood lymphocytes, and serum anti-inflammatory (interleukin-10; IL-10) and pro-inflammatory (interleukin-6; IL-6, interleukin-12, tumor necrosis factor-alpha) cytokines.

What were the results? (2)

  • Adjusting for pre-supplementation reactivity, age, sagittal abdominal diameter, and sex, omega-3 supplementation altered telomerase (p = 0.05) and IL-10 (p = 0.05) stress reactivity; both supplementation groups were protected from the placebo group’s 24% and 26% post-stress declines in the geometric means of telomerase and IL-10, respectively.
  • Omega-3 reduced overall cortisol (p = 0.03) and IL-6 (p = 0.03) throughout the stressor;
  • The group that received 2.5gram per day of Omega 3’s had had 19% and 33% lower overall cortisol levels (lower stress) and IL-6 geometric mean levels (lowering inflammation), respectively, compared to the placebo group.

The authors (2) conclude that, by lowering overall inflammation and cortisol levels during stress and boosting repair mechanisms during recovery, omega-3 may slow accelerated aging and reduce depression risk.

What are some caveats?

  • This is a small study and further study is needed.
  • The population studied was middle aged, which makes it difficult to generalize to specific populations like college students.
  • Omega 3s may interact with prescription medications and supplements.
  • Omega 3’s have other health benefits (3) as well.
  • Talk to your doctor or prescriber before considering omega 3’s.

What are some sources of omega 3s?
According to the National Institute of Health(3), sources of omega 3’s include:
• Fish and other seafood (especially cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines)
• Nuts and seeds (such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts)
• Plant oils (such as flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil)
• Fortified foods (such as certain brands of eggs, yogurt, juices, milk, soy beverages, and infant formulas)
• Omega-3 dietary supplements include fish oil, krill oil, cod liver oil, and algal oil (a vegetarian source that comes from algae). They come in a wide range of doses and forms.

How much omega 3s do I need per day?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends consuming no more than 3 g/day of EPA and DHA combined, including up to 2 g/day from dietary supplements (3).

Where can I learn more about omega 3s?

What are some resources to improve nutrition?
• Nutrition coaching with The OSU Student Wellness Center
• Nutritionist at The OSU Wilce Wilce Student Health center
• Nutritionist at The OSU Wexner medical center
• Nutrition books
• Take a nutrition class
• Take a look at the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
• Harvard’s page on nutritional psychiatry.

What are some resources to improve stress?

To learn more about stress management go here:


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

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.


  1. Wall R, Ross RP, Fitzgerald GF, Stanton C. Fatty acids from fish: the anti-inflammatory potential of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Nutr Rev. 2010 May;68(5):280-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00287.x. PMID: 20500789.
  2. Madison, A.A., Belury, M.A., Andridge, R. et al.Omega-3 supplementation and stress reactivity of cellular aging biomarkers: an ancillary substudy of a randomized, controlled trial in midlife adults. Mol Psychiatry (2021).