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Depression Health Center

Fish Oil to Treat Depression?

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Supplement or Go Fish

But just how to mend that situation remains controversial. Omega-3s might worsen some chronic illnesses. (Check with a doctor if you have such a condition before starting to take supplements.) The Food and Drug Administration is now considering what quantity of omega-3s to recommend; currently it has no recommendation but classifies three grams per day as "safe."

Though Stoll gave patients 10 grams of fish oil a day for his study, he advises starting with lower doses. He believes that packaged fish oil supplements are the easiest -- and possibly safest -- way to increase omega-3 levels.

"Unfortunately in our country eating too much fresh fish is potentially dangerous because of possible mercury and pesticide levels," he explains. "Farm-raised fish is perhaps safer, but depending on what they are fed, the fish may not have the needed quantity of omega-3s."

But concerns have also been raised about the levels of contamination in fish oil supplements. Regulators do not currently test the purity of supplements.

Hibbeln cautions that people should not take cod liver oil in the quantity necessary to get three grams per day of omega-3s because that much cod liver oil would contain dangerous levels of vitamin A.

On the other hand, flaxseed oil is a good source of omega-3s. It can be taken as a supplement or used in salad dressings. Unlike fish oils, which contain a different combination of omega-3s, flaxseed oil should not be cooked because heat can destroy the omega-3s.

More answers are expected soon. The National Institute of Mental Health's Center for Complementary and Alternate Medicine is sponsoring Stoll in a large new study, one of three now under way. All three are expected to be complete by the end of next year.

But Dave probably won't wait for the results. "Looks like I need to go out and get myself some fish oil," he says.

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