Previous studies have suggested lower levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) specific to the Omega-3s found in fish oil may be involved in mental health conditions like depression.
To further explore this link, a team of researchers from Montreal, Canada led by Francois Lesperance devised a study to explore whether fish oil supplements could have an effect on depression similar to that of traditional drugs like Prozac.
Noting that “many of these (alternative) treatments have not been adequately evaluated”, Lesperance set out to conduct one of the first large-scale investigations of its type. The research findings, which were published in the Online Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, suggested fish oil was indeed effective at treating people suffering from depression.
The study included 483 participants, all currently suffering from depression or both depression AND anxiety. Researchers gave half the participants either 3 capsules of fish oil per day, or a placebo consisting of capsules containing sunflower seed oil flavored with fish oil.
The participants were then asked to complete a daily questionnaire about their depression symptoms. After the 8 week study was over, the researchers made two significant findings:
- There was a slight improvement for the participants who were experiencing both depression and anxiety symptoms, but the results could not be considered statistically significant.
- The participants who were only experiencing depression symptoms did see a significant reduction in their depression symptoms as compared to the placebo group.
These results should not be interpreted to mean that those suffering from depression should simply eat more fish, however. The researchers used a high quality fish oil supplement with higher levels of omega-3 than those provided simply by eating fish.
If you or someone you know suffers from depression, talk with your doctor about using fish oil supplements as an alternative to more potent psychoactive drugs.