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Omega-3 intake and major depressive disorder – Cochrane review published

Major depressive disorder (MDD) accounts for around 3% of ill-health globally and this is predicted to double by 2030. Symptoms include a sense of hopelessness, decreased pleasure, generally depressed mood, feelings of worthlessness and diminished interest in all activities. MDD can be extremely debilitating, difficult to treat and often reoccurs.

Some research already completed has suggested that deliberately increasing consumption of long chain omega-3 fatty acids is associated with reduction in depressive symptoms in individuals suffering with major depressive disorder. Other evidence has also suggested that populations that consume greater quantities of omega-3 rich foods such as oily fish have lower incidences of MDD as well as other psychiatric disorders.

This Cochrane review1therefore looked at the existing evidence on the effects of omega-3 supplementation on major depressive disorders in adults.

The review examined 26 randomised trials and with a total of 1458 participants.  All of the trials looked at the effect of omega-3 supplementation on clinical depression.  The researchers found that there was little discernible clinical effect of omega-3 supplementation.  They pointed out, however, that the quality of the studies was poor and called for larger trials. The IFBB would echo this.  We would also express concern that there is a tendency to examine the omega-3s ALA, DHA and EPA together. There is evidence that EPA is what is crucial for the treatment of depression.

IFBB welcomes the publication of the Cochrane review Omega-3 fatty acids for depression in adults.  It is crucial that the links between diet and mental health are based on robust scientific evidence. This review highlights the need for large, well conducted, randomised control trials so that we can better understand the role that nutrition has to play in the treatment of mental disorders.

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