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  • 2012

Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce depressive symptoms in the elderly

Published on

20 October 2012

Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids may alleviate symptoms of depression in elderly patients, says a new Italian study.

In the randomized controlled trial, 46 depressed females aged between 66 and 95 years received 2.5gm of omega-3 fatty acids – eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in a ratio of 2:1 – per day or a placebo for eight weeks (1). At the beginning of the study all participants had very low levels of omega-3 fatty acids, in particular of EPA, in red blood cell membranes compared to healthy subjects. The study results showed that the women who took the omega-3 fatty acid supplement had significantly reduced symptoms of depression compared to those in the placebo group. The reduction of symptoms was accompa-nied by changes in the participants’ omega-3 fatty acid status: the supplementation seemed to be able to restore the EPA concentration in red blood cell membranes to normal values, while the blood EPA and DHA concentrations after supplementation did not increase as much as the value observed in healthy subjects.

The researchers commented that these findings confirm the positive effects of increased omega-3 fatty acid intake in the treatment of depression in the elderly. Depression is common in late life: both major and minor depression are reported in 13% of community dwelling older adults, 24% of older medical out-patients, 30% of older acute care patients and 43% of nursing home dwelling older adults.


  1. Rizzo, A. M. et al. Comparison between the AA/EPA ratio in depressed and non depressed elderly females: omega-3 fatty acid supplementation correlates with improved symptoms but does not change immunological parameters. Nutrition Journal. 2012; 11(82).

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