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Fish Oil Rivals Antidepressants in Clinical Trial
8/17/2009
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Clinical findings affirm earlier indications and further justify strong omega-3 support from the American Psychiatric Association
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 anxietythe 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’sto higher levels of depression.

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


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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