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Natural Supplements for Major Depression?

Omega-3 supplements are an effective treatment for patients with major depression who are not suffering from comorbid anxiety.

In the largest study ever to assess the efficacy of omega-3s for treating depression, researchers from the University of Montreal—led by Dr. François Lespérance—found that patients with major depression who were not suffering from comorbid anxiety benefited significantly from omega-3 supplements.

For these patients, “omega-3 supplementation was superior to placebo, with an adjusted mean difference of 3.17 points on the [Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology]-SR30 (95% CI, 0.89 to 5.45; P = .007) and 1.93 points (95% CI, 0.50 to 3.36; P = .008) on the” Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale.

Between October 2005 and January 2009, 432 male and female participants with major unipolar depression participated in the randomized, double-blind study. Over an 8-week period, half of the participants took three capsules per day of OM3 Emotional Balance, a fish oil supplement containing high concentrations of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), while the other half of patients were given an identical placebo capsule that contained sunflower oil flavored by a small quantity of fish oil. During the 8 weeks, the participants were given omega-3s at doses of 1050 mg of EPA and 150 mg of DHA each day; the researchers did not specify whether taking the supplements at higher doses or for a longer time would provide different results.

“In this heterogeneous sample of patients with MDE, there was only a trend toward superiority of omega-3 supplementation over placebo in reducing depressive symptoms,” the researchers wrote in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. “However, there was a clear benefit of omega-3 supplementation among patients with MDE without comorbid anxiety disorders.”

The team also included researchers from McGill University, Université Laval, and Queen's University.