News

Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce risk of suicide

August 30, 2011

According to a new US study, low levels of omega-3 fatty acids may be linked to the risk of suicide by up to 62%.

In the case control study, levels of omega-3 fatty acids were tested in the blood of 800 individuals, all US military personnel, who had committed suicide. These levels were then compared with the omega-3 levels of 800 randomly selected controls, also active-duty service members, who matched the suicide cases by age, sex, and rank (1). The study results showed that all service members had low omega-3 levels and that suicide risk was greatest among individuals with the lowest levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the major omega-3 fatty acid concentrated in the brain.

The scientists commented that the findings would add to an extensive body of research that points to a fundamental role for DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids in protecting against mental health problems and suicide risks. In a previous placebo- controlled trial it was demonstrated that 2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day reduced suicidal thinking by 45%, as well as depression and anxiety scores among individuals with recurrent self-harm. Low blood levels of DHA correlated with hyperactivity of brain regions in a pattern that closely resembles the pathology of major depression and suicide risk. While omega-3 fatty acids are generally recommended by the American Psychiatric Association as an adjunctive therapy for mood disorders, more research is necessary to establish a definitive role for their use in the stand-alone treatment of depression, according to the researchers of this study.

References

  1. Lewis M. D. et al. Suicide deaths of active-duty US Military and omega-3 fatty-acid status: a case control comparison. J Clin Psychiatry. Online publication August 2011.