According to the World Health Organization, depression is a major cause of disease burden worldwide, affecting an estimated 350 million people. In 2014, the National Institutes of Mental Health estimated that 15.7 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the previous year.
A new meta-analysis published in Translational Psychiatry supports the link between intake of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients found in certain varieties of fatty fish, and reduction in the symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD).
The meta-analysis, which included the results of 13 studies and 1,233 total participants, showed a benefit for EPA and DHA supplementation that is comparable to effects reported in similar meta-analyses of antidepressant use. The positive effect was greater in studies supplementing with higher doses of EPA, and there was also a positive benefit seen in patients already taking antidepressants.
"This new meta-analysis nuances earlier research on the importance of long chain omega-3s in MDD management," said Dr. Roel JT Mocking, the study's lead author and researcher at the Program for Mood Disorders, Department of Psychiatry, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. "Omega-3 supplements may be specifically effective in the form of EPA in depressed patients using antidepressants. This could be a next step to personalizing the treatment for depression and other disorders."
Additionally, this study underscores the importance of EPA and DHA omega-3s for overall health and well-being, and supports an existing body of research on the connection between omega-3s and depression.
"Although the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED) was not involved in this research, we believe that the importance of omega-3s for public health needs to be shared with the public," said Adam Ismail, executive director of GOED. "Depression is a serious issue on a global basis and this study shows the positive role EPA and DHA omega-3s can have in addressing this worldwide public health problem."