Fish oil supplements: Can they treat depression?

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Fish oil supplements: Can they treat depression?


Is there any benefit to taking fish oil supplements for depression?

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Fish oil supplements may help ease symptoms of depression in some people. As with prescription antidepressants, fish oil appears most helpful for severe symptoms — but it may not be as effective for mild to moderate depression.

Fish oil is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which play an important role in brain function. People with depression may have low blood levels of brain chemicals called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These chemicals are found in fish oil. The best dose of fish oil isn't clear, but it appears that supplements containing 100 to 300 milligrams of either EPA or a combination of EPA and DHA may be helpful in relieving depression.

Supplements aren't the only way to get more omega-3s. Eating fish a few times a week may be the best way to provide your body with enough of these healthy oils. Fish high in omega-3s include sardines, mackerel, salmon, snapper, trout, and canned white tuna. Shellfish, including mussels and oysters, also contain omega-3s.

Fish oil isn't considered a replacement for treatment of depression, but it may be helpful as an addition to prescribed medications or other treatment. Although more studies are needed to determine exactly what role omega-3 fatty acids play in depression, it's still a good idea to get enough of these healthy oils. Omega-3s help protect heart health and appear to have other health benefits.

Last Updated: 2010-07-23
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