Questions Raised Regarding Omega-3s for Anxiety and Depression
Node Smith, ND
Omega-3 fats have little or no effect on anxiety and depression according to new research from the University of East Anglia.
Omega-3 fats have little or no effect on anxiety and depression
Increased consumption of omega-3 fats is widely promoted globally because of a common belief that it will protect against, or even reverse, conditions such as anxiety and depression.
But a systematic review published today in the British Journal of Psychiatry, finds that omega-3 supplements offer no benefit.
Omega-3 is a type of fat
Small amounts are essential for good health and can be found in the food that we eat including nuts and seeds and fatty fish, such as salmon.
Omega-3 fats are also readily available as over-the-counter supplements and they are widely bought and used.
Researchers looked at 31 trials of adults with and without depression & anxiety
The research team looked at 31 trials of adults with and without depression or anxiety. More than 41,470 participants were randomized to consume more long-chain omega-3 fats (fish oils), or maintain their usual intake, for at least six months.
They found that the supplements had little or no effect in preventing depression or anxiety symptoms.
Lead author, Dr Lee Hooper from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Our previous research has shown that long-chain omega-3 supplements, including fish oils, do not protect against conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes or death.
This large systematic review included information from many thousands of people over long periods. Despite all this information, we don’t see protective effects.
The most trustworthy studies consistently showed little or no effect of long-chain omega-3 fats on depression or anxiety, and they should not be encouraged as a treatment.”
Dr Katherine Deane, from UEA’s School of Health Sciences, said: Oily fish can be a very nutritious food as part of a balanced diet.
But we found that there is no demonstrable value in people taking omega-3 oil supplements for the prevention or treatment of depression and anxiety.
Considering the environmental concerns about industrial fishing and the impact it is having on fish stocks and plastic pollution in the oceans, it seems unhelpful to continue to swallow fish oil tablets that give no benefit.”
1. Deane, K.H.O., et al. (2019) Omega-3 and polyunsaturated fat for prevention of depression and anxiety symptoms: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised trial. British Journal of Psychiatry. doi.org/10.1192/bjp.2019.234.
Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Humboldt, Saskatchewan and associate editor and continuing education director for NDNR. His mission is serving relationships that support the process of transformation, and that ultimately lead to healthier people, businesses and communities. His primary therapeutic tools include counselling, homeopathy, diet and the use of cold water combined with exercise. Node considers health to be a reflection of the relationships a person or a business has with themselves, with God and with those around them. In order to cure disease and to heal, these relationships must be specifically considered. Node has worked intimately with many groups and organizations within the naturopathic profession, and helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic Revitalization (ANR), which works to promote and facilitate experiential education in vitalism.