Patients suffering from major depression who do not have anxiety disorders may be able to reduce the severity of symptoms by taking daily omega-3 supplements, according to a new University of Montreal study.
Lead investigator Francoise Lesperance and her Canadian colleagues recruited 432 male and female participants who were recently diagnosed with major unipolar depression and randomly assigned them to receive either fish oil supplements containing high levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) or placebo tablets.
For patients suffering from depression and anxiety, the eight weeks of treatment with omega-3 supplements was statistically ineffective. However, depressed patients who were not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder experienced a considerable reduction in symptoms. The effectiveness of the treatment was comparable to standard antidepressant therapy.
Lesperance noted that many individuals who are diagnosed with depression refrain from taking conventional antidepressants due to the adverse side-effects associated with many pharmaceutical drugs.
"Many of these treatments have not been adequately evaluated," he added. "That is why it was important to assess the efficacy of omega-3, one of the most popular alternative approaches."
The fish oil capsules used in the study were composed of 1,050 milligrams (mg) of EPA and 150 mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).