Food and Behaviour Research

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Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trials of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Psychiatric Disorders: a Review of Current Literature

Politi P, Rocchetti M, Emanuele E, Rondanelli M, Barale F (2011) Curr Drug Discov Technol. 2011 Aug 15   

Web URL: View this and related abstracts via PubMed here


Growing evidence suggests the clinical usefulness of omega (ω)-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in patients with psychiatric disorders.

In the present review, we summarize the findings of randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials focusing on the potential therapeutic utility of omega-3 PUFA in mental illnesses.

We searched the Pubmed databese for placebo-controlled clinical trials utilizing the keywords PUFA, omega 3, eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid in combination with the following terms: anxiety disorders, autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), personality disorders, and schizophrenia.

The literature review indicated that personality disorders, autism, and anxiety disorders have been less investigated than mood disorder, schizophrenia, and ADHD. While no definite conclusions can be drawn on the therapeutic efficacy of ω-3 PUFA in the majority of psychiatric illnesses examined herein, evidence suggests the potential preventive role of this molecules in subjects at ultra-high risk for developing psychosis. Hopefully, future studies in the field should examine the turnover of ω-PUFA in the neural membranes. Moreover, special attention should be paid to potential confounders such as dietary or smoking habits.


Back in 2006, the American Psychiatric Association reviewed the evidence from randomised controlled clinical trials (RCT) of omega-3 for psychiatric disorders, and found that there was already sufficient evidence to make treatment recommendations, especially for clinical depression, but also for other psychiatric disorders. See:

Since then, evidence from many more RCTs has confirmed benefits of long-chain omega-3 for depression see Martins 2009, Davis et al 2010). 

Similarly, results from trials of omega-3 for ADHD also show an overall benefit from dietary supplementation (see Bloch & Qawasmi, 2011)

And as highlighted by the authors of the current review, there is also extremely promising evidence for omega-3 in the prevention of schizophrenia (see Amminger et al 2010)

They emphasises that further studies are still needed - both in these conditions, and in relation to other developmental, psychiatric and neurological disorders.