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International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research Practice Guidelines for Omega-3 Fatty Acids in the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder

Guu TW, Mischoulon D, Sarris J, Hibbeln J, McNamara RK, Hamazaki K, Freeman MP, Maes M, Matsuoka YJ, Belmaker RH, Jacka F, Pariante C, Berk M, Marx W, Su KP (2019) Psychother Psychosom.  2019;88(5): 263-273. doi: 10.1159/000502652. 

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Abstract:

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.

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