Omega 3 is a fatty acid and dietary component on which studies have been carried out to evaluate how they could influence the prevention and treatment of depression.
According to the World Health Organization ( WHO ), more than 300 million people worldwide suffer from a major depressive disorder, which accounts for more than 3% of global health problems. Due to its negative impact on the individual (depressed mood) and society (produces a high rate of absenteeism), the treatment of depression has been and continues to be an area in constant evolution. Therefore, in addition to pharmacological treatment and psychological therapy, in recent years studies have been carried out to evaluate which dietary components could influence its prevention and treatment: among them, we highlight the omega 3 fatty acids.
Within the omega 3 family, there are two fatty acids that are especially interesting for the functions they perform: eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA). Among these functions we highlight:
1.Maintenance of brain function.
2.Maintenance of the immune system.
3.Reduction of mediators of inflammation (cytokines and proinflammatory prostaglandins).
4.Improvement of dopaminergic and serotonergic neurotransmission. These fatty acids, when considered essential, should be ingested through foods such as bluefish, shellfish, some nuts, and seeds, although we can also supplement this dietary intake through the intake of supplements rich in omega 3.
In fact, the growing interest in this type of fats has promoted the appearance of EPA and DHA supplements that have suggested beneficial effects in the treatment of depression. However, the European Food Safety Authority, although recommends the intake of 250 mg of EPA and DHA for healthy adults has not reported positively on the effects of these fatty acids on people’s cognitive function or mood and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the use of supplements formulated with EPA and DHA for the treatment of any psychiatric disorder.
There are already numerous studies that have tried to examine the efficacy of omega 3 supplements in depression, obtaining divergent results due, in part, to the methodological differences between the trials (dose and duration of supplementation) and differences in composition. the supplements (EPA: DHA ratio).
Specifically, a review published in March 2010 in the journal “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” showed the difficulty of making clear recommendations regarding the role of omega-3 acids in depression, due to the heterogeneous character of the clinical tests carried out until the date.
In other cynical trials published in the Cochrane Library (2015) the effect of omega 3 fatty acid supplements compared with placebo tablets and with an antidepressant treatment was investigated : the results showed a small positive effect of omega 3 fatty acids compared to placebo, although little relevant because the tests were of low quality.
Even taking into account that, in general, omega 3 fatty acids should not be prescribed as an alternative treatment for depressive disorders, there is some evidence that supports the use of EPA and DHA to reinforce the effectiveness of antidepressant treatment.
In fact, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) recommends a daily dose of 1,000 mg of EPA + DHA (containing at least 60% of EPA) as adjuvant treatment in depression and other psychiatric disorders.
Also, because the depressive disorder is an inflammatory pathology that produces oxidative damage, those patients who carry out an insufficient diet in omega 3 could respond favorably to the consumption of this type of fats and, specifically, to the use of supplements with EPA and that could modulate said inflammation improving both the adherence to treatment, as well as the prevention of relapses in depression.
With all the above, we can conclude that, despite the ambiguity in the results, omega 3 fatty acids have the potential to improve many of the biological changes associated with depression, especially the inflammatory component, so it is recommended to carry out a healthy diet rich in bluefish (salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel …), nuts and seeds (flax, chia, etc.) whose intake has been associated with a lower risk of suffering from a depressive disorder.
In addition, supplements rich in EPA / DHA have shown positive effects on the prevention and reinforcement of the treatment of this pathology.
However, more studies are needed to better understand the mechanisms of action of omega 3 acids and, today there is not enough evidence to support its use as monotherapy or as an alternative to antidepressants.
What you should know…
1.The growing interest in this type of fats has promoted the appearance of EPA and DHA supplements that have suggested beneficial effects in the treatment of depression.
2. The European Food Safety Authority, although it recommends the intake of 250 mg of EPA and DHA for healthy adults, has not reported positively on the effects of these fatty acids on people’s cognitive function or mood. 3. More studies are needed to better understand the mechanisms of action of omega 3 acids and today there is insufficient evidence to support their use as monotherapy or as an alternative to antidepressants.