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Omega-3s can help prevent some types of depression

21st Jan 2016

The Study

A recent article published in the Biological Psychiatry journal, has shown that supplementation with specific omega-3s can significantly reduce the incidence of interferon-alpha-induced depression.

What did they do?

This study was a randomised, double blind, placebo controlled trial that gave nutritional supplements to individuals undergoing interferon-alpha therapy, for chronic hepatitis C. This therapy has been linked to pro-inflammatory induced depression and this trial was designed to investigate whether supplementation with specific omega-3 fatty acids might reduce symptoms. The participants were supplemented with either eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both of which are omega-3 fatty acids, or a placebo. The supplements were given for two weeks before the interferon-alpha treatment began which then lasted for 24 weeks. Depressive symptoms were measured at multiple time points during the trial. The results showed that supplementation with EPA reduced the incidence of depression. This was not shown for DHA or the placebo. Another interesting finding was that supplementation with both EPA and DHA decreased the onset of depression when compared to the placebo.

Professor Carmine Pariante, lead author from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London, says: “It is now established that increased inflammation plays a role in causing depression in at least a subgroup of patients. Our study shows that even a short course of a nutritional supplement containing one type of omega-3 fatty acid (EPA) reduces the rates of new-onset depression to 10%, as opposed to the rate of 30% we usually see in this group.”

He then went on to say: “We believe that this nutritional intervention restores the natural protective anti-inflammatory capabilities of the body, and thus protects patients from new-onset depression when inflammation occurs.”

What does the Institute think?

These findings are hugely important as they provide yet more evidence to support the role that nutritional interventions can have in the prevention of mental ill-health. Omega-3 supplementation should be carefully considered in instances where drug treatments may lead to inflammation causing depressive symptoms. There is a body of evidence supporting the theory that specific omega-3s, such as EPA, can have a significant role in the onset and treatment of various types of depression. Using nutritional non-drug therapies, where evidence has shown them to be effective, should be a more prominent form of treatment. In this study the nutritional intervention was shown to be both effective and also caused no adverse side-effects.

The IFBB believes that the results from this study provide yet more evidence supporting the importance of nutritional interventions in preventative treatment of mental ill-health. 1

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