IMAGE: Forest plot of meta-analysis on the effect of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on depressive symptoms in major depressive disorder.
Credit: Mocking et al., 2016. doi:10.1038/tp.2016.29 Reproduced per terms of Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode
According to the World Health Organization, depression is a major cause of disease burden worldwide, affecting an estimated 350 million people. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, in 2014, an estimated 15.7 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
A new meta-analysis published in Translational Psychiatry supports the link between intake of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids, the kind found in fish, and reduction in major depressive disorder (MDD). The meta-analysis includes 13 studies with 1233 participants and, according to the authors, showed a benefit for EPA and DHA comparable to effects reported in meta-analyses of antidepressants (see Figure 1). The effect was greater in studies supplementing higher doses of EPA and performed in patients already on antidepressants.
“This new meta-analysis nuances earlier research on the importance of long chain omega-3s in MDD management”, said Dr. Roel JT Mocking, the study’s lead author and researcher at the Program for Mood Disorders, Department of Psychiatry, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. “Omega-3 supplements may be specifically effective in the form of EPA in depressed patients using antidepressants. This could be a next step to personalizing the treatment for depression and other disorders.”
Additionally, this study underscores the importance of EPA and DHA omega-3s for overall health and well-being, and supports an existing body of research on the connection between omega-3s and depression.
Expert interviews available:
Dr. RJT Mocking, lead author
Program for Mood Disorders
Department of Psychiatry, Academic Medical Center
University of Amsterdam