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Efficacy of omega-3 highly unsaturated fatty acids in the treatment of depression

  • Brian Hallahan (a1), Timothy Ryan (a2), Joseph R. Hibbeln (a3), Ivan T. Murray (a4), Shauna Glynn (a5), Christopher E. Ramsden (a3), John Paul SanGiovanni (a3) and John M. Davis (a2)...

Abstract

Background

Trials evaluating efficacy of omega-3 highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFAs) in major depressive disorder report discrepant findings.

Aims

To establish the reasons underlying inconsistent findings among randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of omega-3 HUFAs for depression and to assess implications for further trials.

Method

A systematic bibliographic search of double-blind RCTs was conducted between January 1980 and July 2014 and an exploratory hypothesis-testing meta-analysis performed in 35 RCTs including 6665 participants receiving omega-3 HUFAs and 4373 participants receiving placebo.

Results

Among participants with diagnosed depression, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)-predominant formulations (>50% EPA) demonstrated clinical benefits compared with placebo (Hedge's G = 0.61, P<0.001) whereas docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)-predominant formulations (>50% DHA) did not. EPA failed to prevent depressive symptoms among populations not diagnosed for depression.

Conclusions

Further RCTs should be conducted on study populations with diagnosed or clinically significant depression of adequate duration using EPA-predominant omega-3 HUFA formulations.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Brian Hallahan, MMedSci, MD, MRCPsych, Department of Psychiatry, Clinical Science Institute, National University of Ireland, Galway, Galway, Ireland. Email: brian.hallahan@nuigalway.ie

Footnotes

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This study, including predefined hypotheses and meta-analysis design, were previously presented at the 49th American College of Neuropsychopharmacology 2010 meeting in Florida, USA.

Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes

References

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Efficacy of omega-3 highly unsaturated fatty acids in the treatment of depression

  • Brian Hallahan (a1), Timothy Ryan (a2), Joseph R. Hibbeln (a3), Ivan T. Murray (a4), Shauna Glynn (a5), Christopher E. Ramsden (a3), John Paul SanGiovanni (a3) and John M. Davis (a2)...
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