Fish Oil Rivals Antidepressants in Clinical Trial

by Craig Weatherby

The results of the largest-ever clinical trial found that omega-3 fish oil may significantly benefit half of all people diagnosed with depression.

Specifically, fish oil seemed to help the 50 percent of depression patients who are free from diagnosed anxiety disorders.

Fish oil appeared to help these people about as much as the leading class of antidepressant drugs … that is, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac and Paxil.

Participants for the trial were people diagnosed with moderate to severe unipolar (i.e., not bipolar) major depression who were unable to tolerate antidepressants, who refused them despite a physician’s recommendation, or who were not helped by the drugs.

More than 430 patients with an episode of major depression were assigned to take either with omega-3 EPA from fish oil (1,050mg per day) for two months or an identical-looking placebo pill masked with fish odor.

Fish oil did not perform better than placebo, for the patients diagnosed with anxiety as well as depression.

More than 430 patients with an episode of major depression were assigned to take either with omega-3 EPA from fish oil (1,050mg per day) for two months or an identical-looking placebo pill masked with fish odor.

Omega-3 EPA from fish oil did not perform better than placebo among the patients diagnosed with anxiety as well as depression.

But among those diagnosed with major depression – but not anxiety – the patients who took omega-3 EPA had significantly better scores than the placebo group.

As lead author Francois Lesperance, M.D., told Medscape Psychiatry. “… the level of improvement we saw in this subgroup is on a par with what has typically been reported with pharmacologic treatments.” (Stein J 2009)

Findings apply to the half of all depression patients not usually studied.

These findings are important because they carry implications for about one-half of all depressed patients … those who do not also display anxiety disorders.

And these people are often excluded from placebo-controlled studies of antidepressant drugs.

Dr. Lesperance made a key point: “Many depressed patients prefer to avoid drug treatment because of the stigma associated with such therapy, not to mention potential treatment-related side effects, and thus it’s nice to be able to offer patients an alternative treatment that is similarly effective but without the risks.” (Stein J 2009)

Most population studies show links between higher levels of omega-3’s and reduced depression risk, and/or link low levels of omega-3’s – or an excess of omega-6’s versus omega-3’s – to higher levels of depression.

Besides supporting normal mood, research shows that omega-3’s – and higher than average omega-3/omega-6 intake ratios – likely benefit cardiovascular, brain, bone, and metabolic health.

Note from Dr. Jonny:

My favorite sources of Omega-3’s are:

  • The Vital Choice brand of salmon is the ONLY fish I have discovered, via independent lab testing, to be free of harmful mercury and other toxins. Save 10% at Vital Choice when you use with the coupon code: DRJONNY
  • High Potency Fresh Catch Fish Oil by Barlean’s contains one of the highest amounts of EPA and DHA in a two capsule serving: 783 EPA and 400 DHA plus another 1/3 gram of other omega-3’s. It’s pharmaceutical grade and one of the purest products I know of.
  • Omega Swirl by Barlean’s looks and tastes like a smoothie but contains optimal levels of EPA/DHA. Your kids will have no idea they are eating a big dose of fish oil!

Sources

*Lesperance F et al. The efficacy of eicosapentaenoic acid for major depression: Results of the OMEGA-3D trial. 9th World Congress of Biological Psychiatry: Abstract FC-25-005. Presented July 1, 2009. Accessed at http://www.wfsbp-congress.org/fileadmin/user_upload/WFSBP_Final_Programme_090625.pdf

*Stein J. WCBP 2009: Omega-3 Supplements Provide Mixed Results as Antidepressant. Medscape Medical News, July 4, 20009. Accessed at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/705508

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5 Comments

  1. Vicki

    Q for you. Fish oil upsets my stomach – I’m always burping it. Sorry to be so gross but I need to take it to lower my cholesterol so I’m wondering if you have a suggestion for a specific brand.

    Reply
    • Dr. Jonny

      Yes, and i have a couple of suggestions.

      Number one, often burping reflects an inferior product- sometimes it’s rancid. Switching to a high quality brand- like Barlean’s- often eliminates the problem

      Second, if that doesn’t work- and it almost always does- put the capsules in the freezer. that will do it!

      warmly
      jb

      Reply
  2. FRANCES

    I TAKE FISH OIL IN LIQUID AT NIGHT BEFORE I GO TO BED. MY CAROTIDS WERE CLOGGED AND I HAD SURGERY. SINCE I SWITCHED TO THE LIQUID FISH OIL THE CLOGS HAVE ALL BUT DISAPPEARED
    I THOUGHT I WAS ABOUT TO DIE WHEN I HAD MY LAST TEST DONE AND I HEARD THE TECH SAY I HAVE NEVER SEEN THIS BEFORE. THEY COULD NOT TELL ME WHAT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT . SO I WAS AFRAID UNTIL I SAW MY CARDIOLOGIST AND WAS TOLD :”YOUR
    ARTERIES HAVE OPENED”
    HE SAID I’M NOT SURE HOW YOU DID THIS ,BUT YOU ARE MY FIRST PATIENT I HAVE SEEN THIS IN. I KNEW I WAS FEELING BETTER THAN I DID A FEW YEARS EARLIER.I ATTRIBUTE THIS TO LOTS OF PRAYER, TAKING THE LIQUID EPH DHA FISH OIL. I RECENTLY HAD ANOTHER SCAN AND IT WAS BETTER THAN GOOD. I’M ONE HAPPY PERSON OVER THIS. TAKE FISH OIL AT NIGHT IS MY SUGGESTION I ALSO TAKE AN ASPIRIN DAILY.

    Reply
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