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Study fails to find omega-3 fatty acids benefit for depression

Published on

19 October 2009

Amplifying antidepressant therapy with an omega-3 fatty acid supplement does not result in improvement in levels of depression in patients with coronary heart disease, a new study reports.

In the randomized controlled trial with 122 individuals with major depression and coronary heart disease (CHD) all patients were given 50 mg per day of an antidepressant (sertraline) and randomly received 2 grams per day of omega-3 fatty acids (930mg of eicosapentaenoic acid, EPA, and 750mg of docosahexaenoic acid, DHA) or placebo capsules for 10 weeks (1). The results of the trial showed that the placebo and omega-3 groups did not differ at 10 weeks in regard to measurements of depression or anxiety.

The authors reported that their findings are inconsistent with two previous studies that looked at depressed psychiatric patients who were otherwise medically well, and which indicated that augmentation with omega-3 fatty acids dramatically improved the efficacy of antidepressants. Whether higher doses of EPA, DHA, or sertraline, a longer duration of treatment, or the use of omega-3 as monotherapy can improve depression in patients with stable heart disease remains to be determined, concluded the authors.

Depression is a risk factor for CHD mortality and morbidity. Low dietary intake and low serum or red blood cell levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with depression in patients with and without CHD. Two omega-3 fatty acids, (EPA and DHA) concentrate at synapses in the human brain and are essential for neuronal functioning.


  1. Carney RM et al. Omega 3 Augmentation of Sertraline in Treatment of Depression in Patients with Coronary Heart Disease: A Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA. 2009; 302(15):1651–1657.

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