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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Getting Depressed About Omega-3s?

By Michael McBurney

Remember when 3 commercial broadcast networks provided news, typically at 6 and 11pm? With 24-hour news networks, there is a continuous stream of updates. No longer do we have Walter Cronkite, the “most trusted man in America”, ending the day with “And that’s the way it is”.

You may have heard that there is insufficient evidence (two studies) to conclude that omega-3s alone, or combined with anti-depressant therapy, affect depression. Only 2 studies involving omega-3 fatty acids were included in the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) report (Table 16). In November, a Cochrane Review identified 26 relevant studies and found a small-to-positive effect of omega-3 fatty acids (compared to placebo) on depression/mood. A new study finds low EPA+DHA concentrations (relative to arachidonic acid) in red blood cell phospholipids is associated with greater depressive symptom severity.

The evidence that omega-3s may affect depression is still being resolved. And that’s the way it is.

However, there is no controversy about the fact many people worldwide are not consuming enough omega-3 fatty acids. We know Americans are not eating recommended levels of fish and omega-3 fatty acids. And for that reason alone, 96% of US adults fail to maintain healthy EPA+DHA concentrations in their blood.

DHA is an essential constituent of the brain, eyes, and testis. Be prudent. Don’t be depressed by mixed messages in the media. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for healthy lives.

Main Citation

Mazereeuw G, Herrmann N, Ma DWL, Hillyer LM, Oh PI, Lanctot KL. Omega-3/omega-6 fatty acid ratios in different phospholipid classes and depressive symptoms in coronary artery disease patients. 2015 Brain Behav Immun doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2015.12.009

Other Citations

Nonpharmacological versus pharmacological treatments for adult patients with major depressive disorder. AHRQ Publication No 15(16)-EHC031-EF, December 2015

Appleton KM, Sallis HM, Perry R, Ness AR, Churchill R. Omega-3 fatty acids for depression in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 11:CD004692

Papanikolaou Y,  Brooks J, Reider C, Fulgoni VL. US adults are not meeting recommended levels for fish and omega-3 fatty acid intake: results from an analysis using observational data from NHANES 2003-2008. 2014 Nutr J doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-13-31

Murphy RA, Yu EA, Ciappio ED, Mehta S, McBurney MI. Suboptimal plasma long chain n-3 concentrations are common among adults in the United States, NHANES 2003-2004. 2015 Nutrients doi: 10.3390/nu7125534

Christophersen OA. Why is there so much DHA in the brain, retina, and testis? Possible implications for human reproduction and the survival of our species. 2012 Omega-6/3 fatty acids: Part of the Series Nutrition and Health doi: 10.1007/978-1-62703-215-5_12