A new UK study reports that increased intakes of omega-3 fatty acids decreased the incidence and/or delay the onset of interferon-alpha-induced depression in patients being treated for hepatitis C.
In the randomized controlled trial, 152 patients with hepatitis C received two weeks of treatment with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) or placebo (1). Following the two-week treatment, the patients received a 24-week course of interferon-alpha treatment and were evaluated repeatedly for depression. The study results showed that treatment with EPA, but not DHA or placebo, decreased the incidence of interferon-alpha-induced depression in the participants from approximately 30% to 10%. In addition, both EPA and DHA delayed the onset of depression. Both omega-3 fatty acids were well tolerated, with no serious side effects.
The researchers commented that these new data provide promising support for omega-3 fatty acids to prevent depression, complementing other studies where they were found to enhance antidepressant treatment. Earlier research showed that people with low blood levels of EPA were at higher risk of developing depression. Therefore, an increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids may restore the natural protective anti-inflammatory capabilities of the body, and thus protects patients from new-onset depression when inflammation occurs.