Omega 3 fatty acid supplements may not be effective to treat major depressive disorder, says a new study.
Omega 3 fatty acids are naturally found in fatty fish such as tuna and some nuts and seeds. It is widely promoted as an essential supplement for good health.
Studies have suggested that supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids may treat depression. But a new review published in the Cochrane Library, says that there is insufficient evidence for whether omega 3 fatty acids are effective to treat depressive disorder.
‘Researchers at the University of Bournemouth said there is insufficient evidence to support the popular perception that omega 3 fatty acids can treat depression.’
Katherine Appleton and her colleagues from the University of Bournemouth, England, analyzed data from 26 randomized trials involving a total of 1,458 participants that investigated the effects of treating depression with either an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement pill or a placebo.
The researchers found that people who were supplemented omega 3 fatty acids reported lower symptom scores for depression than people given a placebo, but the effect was small. There were also important limitations in the trials that undermined their confidence in the results. Their analyses showed that although similar numbers of people experienced side effects, more data would be required to understand the risks of taking omega 3 fatty acids.
Lead author, Katherine Appleton from Bournemouth University says in a statement, "We found a small-to-modest positive effect of omega 3 fatty acids compared to placebo, but the size of this effect is unlikely to be meaningful to people with depression, and we considered the evidence to be of low or very low quality. All studies contributing to our analyses were of direct relevance to our research question, but most of these studies are small and of low quality."
"At present, we just don't have enough high quality evidence to determine the effects of omega 3 fatty acids as a treatment for the major depressive disorder. It is important that people who suffer from depression are aware of this so that they can make more informed choices about treatment," she added.
In 2011, the World Health Organization estimated that major depressive disorders account for 3 percent of global ill health and projections for 2030 suggest an increase to 6 percent or seven percent.