Increasing omega-3 intake unlikely to prevent depression or anxiety

After examining data from over 50,000 adults, researchers found little evidence that omega-3 prevents depression or anxiety symptoms.

Omega-3 supplements unlikely to prevent depression or anxiety

Increasing long-chain omega-3 intake probably has little or no effect in preventing depression or anxiety symptoms, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis in The British Journal of Psychiatry (24 October 2019)[1]

Researchers examined data from 31 trials involving 41,470 adults with and without depression or anxiety. Trial participants were randomised to consume more long-chain omega-3 or to maintain their usual intake for at least six months.

The researchers found little evidence supplementation had an effect in preventing depression or anxiety symptoms.

Evidence of its effects on depression severity and remission in existing depression was unclear because of the low-quality evidence available.

“The most trustworthy studies consistently showed little or no effect of long-chain omega-3 fats on depression or anxiety, and they should not be encouraged as a treatment,” said Lee Hooper, an expert in nutrition at the University of East Anglia’s (UEA’s) Norwich Medical School and lead author on the study.

Katherine Deane from UEA’s School of Health Sciences added: “Considering the environmental concerns about industrial fishing…it seems unhelpful to continue to swallow fish oil tablets that give no benefit.”


[1] Deane K, Jimoh O, Biswas P et al. Omega-3 and polyunsaturated fat for prevention of depression and anxiety symptoms: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised trials. Br J Psych 1-8. doi: 10.1192/bjp.2019.234%20 

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, Increasing omega-3 intake unlikely to prevent depression or anxiety;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20207590

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