Daily supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids may improve symptoms of mild to moderate depression in elderly patients, says a new Iranian study.
In the randomized controlled trial, 66 participants (over 65 years old) with mild to moderate depression were randomly assigned to receive an omega-3 supplement – one gram of fish oil per day, providing 300 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – or placebo for six months (1). The results showed that supplementation resulted in significant improvements in depression scores when compared to placebo. The researchers concluded that low-dose omega-3 fatty acids show some efficacy in the treatment of mild to moderate depression in the elderly. More studies are needed to find the best range of dose and the best duration of treatment. In addition, combination therapy of omega-3 fatty acids with antidepressant drugs in old age should also be evaluated in the future studies.
Studies on omega-3 fatty acids and mood have been contradictory, indicating that the link is complex. However, a growing number of studies suggest beneficial effects. Research has reported that regular and long-term intake of omega-3 fatty acid-rich cod liver oil may protect people from symptoms of depression. Moreover, a study reported that depression ratings were cut by 50 percent following a daily intake of one-gram supplements of EPA.
EPA is thought to function by increasing blood flow in the body. It is also believed to affect hormones and the immune system, both of which have a direct effect on brain function. DHA, on the other hand, is involved in the membrane of ion channels in the brain, making it easier for them to change shape and transit electrical signals.