Food and Behaviour Research

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Omega-3 treatment of childhood depression: a controlled, double-blind pilot study.

Nemets H, Nemets B, Apter A, Bracha Z, Belmaker RH.  (2006) American Journal of Psychiatry.  163(6): 1098-100 

Web URL: View the full text of this article in Am J Psychiat here


OBJECTIVE: Major depressive disorder in children may be more common than previously thought, and its therapeutics are unclear. Because of success in a previous study on omega-3 fatty acids in adult major depressive disorder, the authors planned a pilot study of omega-3 fatty acids in childhood major depression.

METHOD: Children who entered the study were between the ages of 6 and 12. Ratings were performed at baseline and at 2, 4, 8, 12, and 16 weeks using Children's Depression Rating Scale (CDRS), Children's Depression Inventory (CDI), and Clinical Global Impression (CGI). Children were randomized to omega-3 fatty acids or placebo as pharmacologic monotherapy. Twenty-eight patients were randomized, and 20 completed at least 1 month's ratings.

RESULTS: Analysis of variance showed highly significant effects of omega-3 on symptoms using the CDRS, CDI, and CGI.

CONCLUSIONS: Omega-3 fatty acids may have therapeutic benefits in childhood depression.


This is only a small pilot study, and clearly requires replication, but given recent concerns about the use of anti-depressant medications in children and adolescents, the results should be of interest to all clinicians dealing with this agegroup.

Positive results have already been reported in several controlled trials of omega-3 (and particularly EPA) for depression and related mood disorders in adults, including one from the authors of this study:

For reviews of this area of research, see