A new study from the Netherlands reports that patients who suffer from depression may increase the chance to respond to antidepressants by increasing the consumption of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
The observational study measured the intake of fatty fish and the response to anti-depressant medication (20 to 50 mg Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors per day) of 70 patients with a Major Depressive Disorder and 51 healthy participants for six weeks (1). The study results showed that those patients who ate the least fish tended to respond badly to anti-depressants, whereas those who had most fish in the diet responded best to antidepressants. Those who ate fatty fish at least once a week had a 75% chance of responding to antidepressants, whereas those who never ate fatty fish had only a 23% chance of responding to the medication. In addition, the depressed patients showed an altered metabolism of fatty acids, and that this changed metabolism was regulated in a different way by stress hormones.
The researchers commented that measures of fatty acid metabolism, and their association with stress hormone regulation, might be of use in the clinic as an early indicator of future antidepressant response. Moreover, fatty acid metabolism could be influenced by eating fish, which may be a way to improve antidepressant response rates. The next step is to look at whether these alterations in fatty acid metabolism and hormonal activity are specific for depression. The scientists said that they are therefore currently repeating these measurements in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia.