New study finds EPA fish oil effective for depressed people

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A study carried out by Canadian researchers from Universite de Montreal, McGill, Queen’s and the Universite Laval has found that Omega 3 fatty acid supplements high in EPA can effectively treat depression, provided the depressed person isn’t also suffering from an anxiety disorder.

The study was exploring whether it was possible to use Omega 3 supplements to fight depression instead of using anti depressant drugs like Prozac or Paxil, which also carry some unpleasant side effects.

“Many of these (alternative) treatments have not been adequately evaluated” said Francois Lesperance, director of the study and head of psychiatry at the Universite de Montreal hospital centre, reported The Montreal Gazette.

The study involved a total of 432 people from Quebec and Ontario. Over a period of 8 weeks, half of the participants took 3 capsules of Omega 3 fish oil a day. The Omega 3 fish oil that was used in the study had a high concentration of Eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA, which is an Omega 3 fatty acid that can be found in oily fish like Salmon, Tuna, Herring, Sardines and Mackerel.

The other half of the participants took 3 capsules of a placebo which contained just sunflower oil that had been flavoured with fish oil.

Throughout the 8 week period all of the participants were asked to complete a questionnaire which evaluated their symptoms of depression.

The results showed that although there was an overall improvement in the group using the Omega 3 fish oil capsules, there was quite a significant improvement in a sub group of the study where the individuals were suffering from depression but did not also suffer from an anxiety disorder.

There have been numerous studies to date which have revealed that a lack of Omega 3 fatty acids in the diet could contribute towards depression, however, the researchers noted that if someone is depressed, they won’t necessarily find relief from eating large quantities of fish as the high concentration of Omega 3 fatty acid used in the study would not be available in an average diet.

The researchers are advising people to speak to their doctor if they are depressed and want to try a course of fish oil supplements.

The Montreal study was published in June 2010 in the online Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

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