Omega-3 Supplements Recommended to Treat Depression


A clinical practice guideline from the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research recommends omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids as an adjunctive therapy for major depressive disorder. In other words taking Omega-3 supplements has a positive effect in patients suffering from depression.

We have long encouraged patients to take Omega-3 supplements along with their other daily vitamins and minerals. Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid. This means it is a fat that we can only get through eating something with it. Our bodies do not make Omega-3 fats but our bodies require Omega-3 fatty acids to function properly. The best thought on essential fatty acids is that a balance is needed between the three main essential fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are not found, in high amounts, in many of the most common foods Americans eat. Many of the most common foods contain a high amount of Omega-6 and little Omega-3. By consuming too much 6 and not enough 3 we do ourselves a huge disservice and put our health at risk. You can get Omega-3 but it is not easy. The best way to balance the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is to take an Omega-3 supplement and reduce your intake of foods high in Omega-6. I have written on this before in this blog.

According to this clinical guideline there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating the efficacy of Omega-3 as an adjunctive treatment for major depressive disorder. The guideline authors also note that omega-3s are safe and effective for accelerating the effect of antidepressants at treatment initiation and for augmenting existing antidepressant therapy when efficacy is inadequate. The guideline also endorses Omega-3 as a potential preventative treatment for high-risk populations, in addition to standard medical care. The duration of acute Omega-3 treatment may be extended to include maintenance treatment to prevent recurrence.

In my reading of this clinical care guideline I found this quote from Timothy Sullivan, MD, chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwell Health’s Staten Island University Hospital in New York City.

“Conceptually,” he added, “what’s appealing about omega-3s is we know that depressive states are associated with dysregulation of the immune system, and agents like the omega-3s appear to have a role in helping to re-regulate or positively regulate the immune system and combat some of the metabolic effects of stress. But it’s still an area that we need to understand more about.”

What I found interesting about this quote was I did not know that depressive states are associated with dysregulation of he immune system. I understand that Omega-3 has an impact on immune system function. I also understand that chiropractic care has an effect on immune system function. That in the past chiropractors where somewhat successful in treating people with mental health conditions. So much so that there were at least two large chiropractic sanitariums in the country. I am not going to go on the record and state that chiropractic care can cure mental health disorders. I am willing to say that based on what is known today about the human body, as illustrated by the above quote, and the history of the profession there is a potential benefit that might exist in this area.

Anyway, according to this guideline Omega-3 supplementation should be used in conjunction with other treatments for depression. Additionally it could be used as a preventative treatment for people at risk for major depressive disorder and as maintenance treatment after the person is well.

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