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JOURNAL: European Neuropsychopharmacology 13 (2003) 267-271.)
AUTHORS: Su KP et al
ABSTRACT: A double-blind study conducted in Taiwan found that administration of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 PUFAs) to a group of depressed individuals provided significant relief compared to those who received a placebo.
COMMENTARY: Twenty-eight patients ages 18 to 60 diagnosed with major depressive disorder were randomized to receive five capsules per day containing 440 milligrams eicosapentanoic acid and 220 milligrams docosahexanoic acid from fish oil, or a placebo for a period of eight weeks.
Prior to the treatment, and at two, four, six and eight weeks, participants rated and were scored on their depressive symptoms. Blood samples were taken before and after the treatment phase.
Following the fourth week of treatment, subjects who were taking the omega-3 supplements showed significant improvement in depressive symptom scores compared to the placebo group. These patients continued to improve through the eighth week of treatment.
The authors provide several possible explanations for omega-3 fatty acids' benefit in depression. One hypothesis is that the fatty acids normalize the altered cell membrane structure and neurotransmission found in depressed patients.
Another explanation if that omega 3 fatty acids target parts of the arachidonic acid cascade, which can effect mood. The authors hope that further clinical trials of omega-3 fatty acids in depressed patients will be undertaken, although they observe that there is not much incentive for pharmaceutical companies to do so since the nutrients aren't patentable.