Food and Behaviour Research

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01 October 2014 - 3BL Media - Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Prevent Some Forms of Depression

Researchers find that treatment with EPA, but not DHA or placebo, decreased the incidence of interferon-alpha-induced depression in patients being treated for hepatitis C.

FAB RESEARCH COMMENT:

Please find the underpinning research here:

Further discussion of this research and its practical implications can be found here:

Patients with increased inflammation, including those receiving cytokines for medical treatment, have a greatly increased risk of depression. For example, a 6-month treatment course of interferon-alpha therapy for chronic hepatitis C virus infection causes depression in approximately 30% of patients.

Omega-3 fatty acids, more commonly known as fish oil, have a long list of health benefits, including lowering the risk of heart disease and reducing triglyceride levels. These nutritional compounds are also known to have anti-depressant and anti-inflammatory properties.

This led a group of international researchers, led by senior author Dr. Carmine Pariante, to conduct a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in order to carefully evaluate the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on inflammation-induced depression.

They recruited 152 patients with hepatitis C to participate, each of whom was randomized to receive two weeks of treatment with EPA, DHA, or placebo. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are the two main omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements.

Following the two-week treatment, the patients received a 24-week course of interferon-alpha treatment and were evaluated repeatedly for depression.

The researchers found that treatment with EPA, but not DHA or placebo, decreased the incidence of interferon-alpha-induced depression in patients being treated for hepatitis C.

Pariante, a Professor at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London, added, “The study shows that even a short course (two weeks) of a nutritional supplement containing one such omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (EPA) reduced the rates of new-onset depression to 10%.”

In addition, both EPA and DHA delayed the onset of depression, and both treatments were well tolerated, with no serious side effects.

“These new data provide promising support for omega-3 fatty acids to prevent depression, complementing other studies where omega-3’s were found to enhance antidepressant treatment,” said Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.