Food and Behaviour Research

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Efficacy of omega-3 highly unsaturated fatty acids in the treatment of depression

Hallahan B, Ryan T, Hibbeln JR, Murray IT, Glynn S, Ramsden CE, SanGiovanni JP, Davis JM. (2016) Br J Psychiatry. 209(3): 192-201 Epub 2016, Apr 21. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.114.160242. 

Web URL: View this and related abstracts via PubMed here.

Abstract:

BACKGROUND:

Trials evaluating efficacy of omega-3 highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFAs) in major depressive disorder report discrepant findings.

AIMS:

To establish the reasons underlying inconsistent findings among randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of omega-3 HUFAs for depression and to assess implications for further trials.

METHOD:

A systematic bibliographic search of double-blind RCTs was conducted between January 1980 and July 2014 and an exploratory hypothesis-testing meta-analysis performed in 35 RCTs including 6665 participants receiving omega-3 HUFAs and 4373 participants receiving placebo.

RESULTS:

Among participants with diagnosed depression, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)-predominant formulations (>50% EPA) demonstrated clinical benefits compared with placebo (Hedge's G= 0.61, P<0.001) whereas docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)-predominant formulations (>50% DHA) did not. EPA failed to prevent depressive symptoms among populations not diagnosed for depression.

CONCLUSIONS:

Further RCTs should be conducted on study populations with diagnosed or clinically significant depression of adequate duration using EPA-predominant omega-3 HUFA formulations.

© The Royal College of Psychiatrists 2016.

FAB RESEARCH COMMENT:

This new systematic review and meta-analysis extends and confirms the pattern of findings shown in previous studies of omega-3 for depression, i.e. that EPA-rich formulations are effective in patients with clinically diagnosed depression.

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