Omega-3 supplements may be an effective tool to help some people overcome depression. The findings come from a major study, which was a collaboration between several Canadian universities and was recently published online by the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. The study found that over 8 weeks, low doses (1050 mg/daily) of omega-3 supplements yielded significant reductions in the symptoms of depression, and performed comparably to popular anti-depressant medications. However, it was only effective in patients who were suffering from depression but not anxiety. Patients with both depression and anxiety did not have much notable improvement from the omega-3 supplements.
In addition to the efficacy of omega-3 supplements in fighting depression, this form of treatment has several other advantages, say the study’s leaders. Even though depression is a very prevalent condition, afflicting people worldwide and of all ages, there are still some stigmas against seeking help in the form of therapy and especially in taking prescription drugs. Additionally, because omega-3 is derived from natural sources (fish oil is a common source), it comes with much lower risk of psychical and psychological side effects than do many synthetic pharmaceutical treatments for depression.
Omega-3 fatty acids are helpful for physical health as well. Supplements in the form of fish oil pills are popular for those who don’t care to eat fish directly (or for higher doses). They have been associated with cancer prevention, immune function, brain health, and cardiovascular disease prevention. Currently, it’s unclear whether one of these physical health benefits is the reason that omega-3 supplements are proving effective for people struggling with depression. But when paired with therapy, omega-3 supplements may be a strong treatment regimen, especially for people concerned with the health risks that come with prescription drugs. Additional research will need to be done to find out whether the efficacy of omega-3 supplements against depression changes over time or with different doses.
© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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