Omega-3 fish oil supplements cannot prevent depression

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In a new study from Massachusetts General Hospital, researchers found evidence that does not support the use of fish oil supplements—a source of omega-3 fatty acid—to help prevent depression.

Experts have recommended omega-3 supplements for reducing the recurrence of depression in some high-risk patients, but there are no guidelines related to the use of these supplements for preventing depression in the general population.

In the study, the team tested the potential of daily vitamin D and/or omega-3 supplements for preventing depression.

A total of 18,353 adults aged 50 years or older without depression at the start of the trial were randomized to receive vitamin D and/or omega-3 supplements or matching placebos for a median of 5.3 years.

The team found no net benefit of omega-3 supplements for preventing depression or boosting mood over the course of the study.

Equal attention was given to the risk of developing clinical depression at any point and to overall mood scores for the duration of follow-up.

While a small increase in the risk of depression was inside the statistical margin of significance, the team says there was no harmful or beneficial effect of omega-3 on the overall course of mood during the roughly 5 to 7 years of follow-up.

There are still health reasons for some people, under the guidance of their health care providers, to take omega-3 fish oil supplements.

For example, these supplements increasingly have been found to have benefits for heart disease prevention and treatment of inflammatory conditions, in addition to being used for management of existing depressive disorders in some high-risk patients.

However, the current findings indicate there is no reason for adults without depression in the general population to take fish oil supplements solely for the purpose of preventing depression or for maintaining a positive mood.

If you care about depression, please read studies about therapy that can effectively treat pain, depression and anxiety, and findings that women with this health problem twice as likely to suffer depression.

For more information about mental health, please see recent studies about common antibiotic that may reduce depression, and results showing that this nutrient supplement may help lower depression.

The study is published in JAMA. One author of the study is Olivia I. Okereke, MD, MS.

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