Depressed? Eat Some Fish

Depressed? Eat Some Fish

Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to be clinically more effective than a placebo in the treatment of mild to moderate depression in the elderly. Yaser Tajalizadekhoob et al studied the effect of low-dose omega 3 fatty acid supplementation as an alternative to antidepressant treatment for the elderly (1). One popular source of these beneficial fatty acids is fish and fish oil. Fish oil was used as the source of Omega 3 fatty acids in the intervention group of this study. Throughout the remainder of this paper the limitations/strengths will be discussed with regard to their support of the potential benefits of omega 3 fatty acids supplementation in the elderly. As well as the means whereby a randomized clinical trial is one of the stronger study designs to investigate the effectiveness of this alternative form of treatment in the elderly population.
The setting of this randomized clinical trial (RCT) took place at a private government funded care facility. The trial consisted of 66 mild to moderately depressed elderly participants divided into two groups: 33 in the treatment group and 33 in the control group. One low-dose omega 3 fatty acid supplement was given daily to each member of the fish oil group and a placebo was administered at the same time to the control group. At the end of the RCT the results showed statistical significance for the fish oil group in their short form Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS-15) scores. The fish oil group and control group were divided into all participants and participants not using anti-depressants to see if there was actually an effect on the participants using the fish oil supplement vs. those using the antidepressant and the fish oil. In the fish oil group the scores from baseline to final for all participants had a difference of 1.24. The significance of these scores is relative. Compare that to the placebo group whose mean for all participants gave a difference of just 0.30. Showing a positive relationship between omega 3 fatty acid use and improvement in depressive symptoms. According to the study, when the groups were divided into all participants and non-antidepressant groups “…differences in clinical response were more evident…” this can been seen when comparing the difference of 1.47 for the non-antidepressant fish oil group to the control/placebo group’s difference of 0.08. According to these results the non-antidepressant fish oil group showed a significant improvement in scores meaning that their overall depressive symptoms improved as was seen in the all participants group (1).

Overall, this study held many strong points: RCT study, parameters in place to eliminate bias to increase the validity of the results, the participants were a well-defined population and the results included information regarding further research needed due to results of the study. The outcome of this study provides promise for an alternative treatment for depression but because the research is not conclusive stating that the benefits related to depression based on the usage of fish oil has repeatedly shown the same positive results that any consideration of this as an alternative form of treatment should be discussed with a personal healthcare provider.


1. Tajalizadekhoob Y, Sharifi F, Azimipour S, et al. The effect of low-dose omega 3 fatty acids on the treatment of mild to moderate depression in the elderly: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. European Archives Of Psychiatry & Clinical Neuroscience. December 2011;261(8):539-549
2. Rizzo A, Corsetto P, Rondanelli M, et al. Comparison between the AA/EPA ratio in depressed and non depressed elderly females: omega-3 fatty acid supplementation correlates with improved symptoms but does not change immunological parameters. Nutrition Journal. January 2012;11(1):82-92.
3. Giles G, Mahoney C, Kanarek R. Omega-3 fatty acids influence mood in healthy and depressed individuals. Nutrition Reviews. November 2013;71(11):727-741.
4. Lin P, Mischoulon D, Su K, et al. Are omega-3 fatty acids antidepressants or just mood-improving agents? The effect depends upon diagnosis, supplement preparation, and severity of depression. Molecular Psychiatry. December 2012;17(12):1161-1163.
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Reviewed by Viktoriya Wolff

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