Vitamins and Minerals

Omega-3 (Fish Oil) For Depression

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What science says about Omega-3 (Fish Oil) For Depression

Scientists and medical experts have different opinions on the benefits of omega-3 for depression. Some experts believe that omega-3 can help treat depression because it improves nerve cell membrane fluidity, reduces inflammation, and improves cerebral blood flow which helps regulate mood and energy levels.

Other experts believe that omega-3 does not help treat depression. They argue that omega fatty acids do not affect people with depression because the scientific evidence surrounding omega-3 and its effects on depression, is contradictory.

For instance, some research shows that omega-3 can improve a person’s mood and decrease depression. However, other studies indicate that omega-3 has no effect on anxiety.

Plus, a recent meta-analysis on trials conducted on omega-3 and depression are biased. This implies that scientist need to conduct longer and better designed trials to make their studies more credible.

Therefore, experts call for more research to investigate the effect of omega-3 on depression.


Opinion in favor of taking omega-3 use to overcome depression:

Supporters of omega-3 consumption for depression believe that it helps treat anxiety because two of its main fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) play an important role in regulating mood.

They believe that omega-3 treats depression by improving the strength and fluidity of the nerve cell membranes. This helps the brain take up neurotransmitters and other nutrients effectively.

Omega-3 also helps improve cerebral blood flow to different areas of the brain, reducing the risk of depression. Plus, it lowers inflammation in the brain, which helps regulate the number of neurotransmitters in the brain and manage nerve cell communication.

Studies have found that people who had depression, had lower levels of EPA and DHA in their blood. When they took omega-3 supplements, their depression and mood improved. For example, the study, “Omega-3 fatty acids in major depressive disorder.

A preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled trial,” found that people with depression had low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood and taking omega-3 supplements decreased their overall depression score.

Other studies also indicate that omega-3 reduces depression. For instance, the meta-analysis “Meta-analysis and meta-regression of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for major depressive disorder” analyzed the results of 13 studies with 1,233 participants. It found that omega-3 supplementation has “beneficial effects” on people with depression. Therefore, omega-3 supplements do have the potential to treat depression.

Skeptical views about taking omega-3 use to overcome depression:

Most medical experts agree that people need omega-3 in small amounts for overall health. However, opponents of omega-3 consumption for depression believe the evidence supporting the claim that omega-3 relieves depression is contradictory. This leads them to conclude that there might be other factors involved in the treatment of depression other than the omega-3 components of the supplements.

In addition, some studies show that omega-3 supplementation has no effect on depression. For instance, in 2019, a large systematic review of trials involving omega-3 consumption and depression, “Omega-3 and polyunsaturated fat for prevention of depression and anxiety symptoms: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised trials” indicated that omega-3 supplementation does not affect depression.

Another review, “Omega-3 fatty acids for the treatment of depression: systematic review and meta-analysis,” found that nearly all of the treatment efficacy observed in the published literature may be attributable to publication bias.”

Thus, researchers need more research on omega-3 and its involvement in depression treatment. This is because the trials that have been conducted on omega-3 and its effect on depression have been short with poor methodology and an indication of publication bias.

Furthermore,  researchers still need to understand how omega-3 works to treat depression, because the exact mechanism of action has not been proven yet. Until then, many experts remain skeptical about the role omega-3 for treating depression.

Published: January 2021

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