Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a complex mental illness with unmet therapeutic needs. The antidepressant effects of ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) have been widely reported.
The subcommittee of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research organized an expert panel and conducted a literature review and a Delphi process to develop a consensus-based practice guideline for clinical use of n-3 PUFAs in MDD. The guideline focuses on 5 thematic areas: general concepts, acute treatment strategy, depression recurrence monitoring and prevention, use in special populations, and potential safety issues.
The key practice guidelines contend that: (1) clinicians and other practitioners are advised to conduct a clinical interview to validate clinical diagnoses, physical conditions, and measurement-based psychopathological assessments in the therapeutic settings when recommending n-3 PUFAs in depression treatment; (2) with respect to formulation and dosage, both pure eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) or an EPA/docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) combination of a ratio higher than 2 (EPA/DHA >2) are considered effective, and the recommended dosages should be 1-2 g of net EPA daily, from either pure EPA or an EPA/DHA (>2:1) formula; (3) the quality of n-3 PUFAs may affect therapeutic activity; and (4) potential adverse effects, such as gastrointestinal and dermatological conditions, should be monitored, as well as obtaining comprehensive metabolic panels.
The expert consensus panel has agreed on using n-3 PUFAs in MDD treatment for pregnant women, children, and the elderly, and prevention in high-risk populations. Personalizing the clinical application of n-3 PUFAs in subgroups of MDD with a low Omega-3 Index or high levels of inflammatory markers might be regarded as areas that deserve future research.
For a FAB comment detailing of some of the key studies in this area over time that have led to this much-needed consensus statement with guidelines for clinicians, please see the landmark study published almost 20 years ago by Professor Malcolm Peet and colleagues:
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