Back There is still insufficient evidence to support claims that omega-3 supplements can help with depression
There is still insufficient evidence to support claims that omega-3 supplements can help with depression
Studies have found a very small and uncertain reduction in symptoms of depression after taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements. Also, the studies have not found enough quality evidence regarding their side effects
Els suplements i complements dietètics d'àcids grassos omega 3, com els d'oli de peix i de fetge de bacallà, s'estan estudiant com a tractament alternatiu per als símptomes de la depressió, una malaltia molt debilitant i difícil de tractar. Els resultats d’aquests estudis són dispars i donen lloc a la difusió de notícies i missatges contradictoris. Després d'analitzar la millor evidència disponible, una nova avaluació de Nutrimedia ha conclòs que encara no hi ha prou evidències científiques per saber si aquests populars suplements ajuden o no a reduir els símptomes depressius.
Dietary supplements of omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in fish oil and cod liver, are being studied as an alternative treatment for symptoms of depression, a highly debilitating illness and one that is difficult to treat. The studies have produced differing results, giving rise to contradictions and conflicting messages. After analysing the best available evidence, a new assessment by Nutrimedia has drawn the conclusion that there is still not enough proof to say whether or not these popular supplements help to reduce symptoms of depression.
These studies have shown that taking omega-3 supplements, compared with taking a placebo (a substance that has no effect), produces a very small and uncertain reduction in depression symptoms.
Nutrimedia’s assessment, a project run by UPF’s Scientific Communication Observatory (OCC-UPF) and the Iberoamerican Cochrane Center, is based on a recent Cochrane review which has analysed evidence from 33 clinical trials with 1,848 people suffering from depression. These studies have shown that taking omega-3 supplements, compared with taking a placebo (a substance that has no effect), produces a very small and uncertain reduction in depression symptoms.
And these studies have not found sufficient quality evidence on the side-effects of these supplements either. Although the studies conducted were all clinical trials (the most reliable type of investigation into health interventions), the certainty of their results is considered very low, as they are imprecise and the findings vary greatly from one study to the next, among other reasons. The assessment, therefore, concludes that the veracity of the claims that omega-3 supplements reduce symptoms of depression is not certain. With the existing evidence, it is not possible to prove or disprove the theory.
Why have omega-3s aroused interest?
Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fish (especially blue fish like tuna, sardines or mackerel), seafood and certain plant sources, like nuts and vegetable oils. They are considered essential fatty acids because they perform essential functions in the organism, but they can only be obtained through diet as our bodies do not produce them. Omega-3s are components of cell membranes, especially those of the eyes and brain, and carry out other important functions in circulatory, immune and endocrine systems, among others.
The recommended quantity of omega-3 fatty acids can be consumed as part of a healthy diet, by including, for example, two portions of fish per week, among other possibilities. While scientists try to understand how omega-3s affect our health, increasing the consumption of foods that are rich in these fatty acids has been linked with a lower risk of certain illnesses, like cancer and dementia.
Other Nutrimedia assessments on omega-3s
Scientists at Nutrimedia have assessed the veracity of claims that an increase in the consumption of fatty acids helps to prevent heart disease and dementia. The first assessment concluded that there is no evidence that consuming supplements or foods that are rich in omega-3 prevents heart disease. With respect to the second assessment, omega-3 fatty acid supplements were shown to offer little or no help in reducing the risk of suffering dementia.