Omega-3 fatty acids, found in significant quantities in salmon, swordfish, and tuna will help relieve depression in people already in maintenance therapy for depression, a recent study shows. The research carried out in Israel supports previous British research which suggested the anti-depressant properties of fish oils.
In a study involving 20 people with recurrent depression, researchers studied the effects of a specific omega-3 fatty acid, known as E-EPA. Patients randomly received either the fish oil capsule or a sugar pill in addition to the antidepressant medication they were taking.
After four weeks, six out of ten patients receiving E-EPA , and only one of ten receiving the placebo, had significantly reduced symptoms of depression. The study is published in the March issue of American Journal of Psychiatry.
"The effect of E-EPA was significant from week two of treatment," said lead author Boris Nemets, a researcher at Ben Gurian University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel. He noted that the symptoms of depressed mood, guilt feelings, worthlessness, and insomnia had all improved.
The study participants were depressed despite the anti-depressant medication they were taking. They were having what psychiatrists call "breakthrough depression". This means that they did not improve during their current episode of depression, despite an increase in their medication dose, better compliance with taking the medication, or more frequent visits for supportive psychotherapy.
However Nemets said that it is not possible to distinguish whether E-EPA boosts antidepressant action in the same way as lithium, or has independent anti-depressant properties of its own.