March 15, 2002 -- Omega-3 fatty acids -- found in salmon, swordfish, and tuna -- are one of the healthier forms of fat. And now, a study shows that they may also help relieve depression.
In a study involving 20 people with recurrent depression, researchers studied the effects of a specific omega-3 fatty acid, known as E-EPA. Patients randomly received either the fish oil capsule or a sugar pill in addition to the antidepressant medication they were taking.
After four weeks, six of 10 patients receiving E-EPA -- but only one of 10 receiving placebo -- had significantly reduced symptoms of depression, says lead author Boris Nemets, MD, a researcher at Ben Gurian University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel. His study appears in the March issue of American Journal of Psychiatry.
"The effect of E-EPA was significant from week two of treatment," Nemets writes. Depressed mood, guilt feelings, worthlessness, and insomnia were all improved.
The patients in this study were depressed despite the antidepressant medication they were taking. They were having what psychiatrists call "breakthrough depression" -- they were not improving during their current episode of depression, despite an increase in their medication dose, better compliance with taking the medication, or more frequent visits for supportive psychotherapy.
E-EPA may work by boosting the antidepressant medication or it may have antidepressant properties of its own, says Nemets.