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Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce anxiety symptoms

September 19, 2011

A daily omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may reduce symptoms of anxiety by about 20%, says a new US study.

In the randomized controlled trial, 68 healthy participants were randomly assigned to receive daily a capsule containing 2085 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 348 mg docosahexanoic acid (DHA) or a placebo for 12 weeks (1). The study results showed a 14% reduction in levels of the production of pro-inflammatory interleukin 6 (IL-6), as well as a 20% reduction in anxiety symptoms in the omega-3 group when compared with the placebo group.

The researchers commented that their study provides the first evidence that omega-3 fatty acids may have potential anti-anxiety effects for individuals without an anxiety disorder diagnosis. Pro-inflammatory cytokines (e.g., interleukin 6) promote the secretion of the corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), a primary gateway to hormonal stress responses. The CRH also stimulates the amygdala, a key brain region for fear and anxiety. Thus, a decrease in inflammation could influence anxiety positively, they added.

The study adds to an increasing number of trials reporting on omega-3 fatty acid’s positive cognitive effects related to mood and behavior. Up until now the majority of scientific research has focused on the cardiovascular benefits of the fatty acids.

References

  1. Kiecolt-Glaser J. K. et al. Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: A randomized controlled trial. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. Online publication September 2011.