In a new study, researchers found that omega-3 fats have little or no effect on anxiety and depression.
The research was conducted by a team from the University of East Anglia.
Increased consumption of omega-3 fats is widely promoted globally because of a common belief that it will protect against, or even reverse, conditions such as anxiety and depression.
But a systematic review finds that omega-3 supplements offer no benefit.
Omega-3 is a type of fat. Small amounts are essential for good health and can be found in the food that we eat including nuts and seeds and fatty fish, such as salmon.
Omega-3 fats are also readily available as over-the-counter supplements and they are widely bought and used.
In the study, the research team looked at 31 trials of adults with and without depression or anxiety. More than 41,470 participants were randomized to consume more long-chain omega-3 fats (fish oils), or maintain their usual intake, for at least six months.
They found that the supplements had little or no effect in preventing depression or anxiety symptoms.
Their previous research has shown that long-chain omega-3 supplements, including fish oils, do not protect against conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes or death.
The team says this large systematic review included information from many thousands of people over long periods. Despite all this information, they don’t see protective effects.
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.
The research was funded by the World Health Organisation.
The lead author of the study is Dr. Lee Hooper, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School.
The study is published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.
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