Older people less depressed with omega-3s from fish oil

Elderly depression: fewer cases thanks to omega 3 EPA DHA

A French study suggests that omega-3s from fish oil, particularly EPA, could alleviate depressive symptoms in elderly subjects on antidepressants. The role of omega-3s in the prevention of heart disease is now well established, so much so that these substances are now part of protocols and -- like drugs -- can be prescribed at no cost to patients suffering from certain conditions. A study conducted in France (*) examined the levels of various blood lipids in the blood of 1390 elderly subjects with depressive problems, trying to find a correlation with the severity of the disorders. Statistical analysis of the data showed an inverse correlation between omega-3 level and symptom intensity, especially in subjects treated with antidepressant drugs. In other words, those who had a higher level of omega-3 in their blood were less depressed than those who had a lower level.

These results are in line with numerous epidemiological studies in which a correlation has been found between depression and low blood levels of omega-3. The novelty of this study is the particularly significant link between depression severity, omega-3 level, and late-life antidepressant medication use. In the world of research, it is often the case that--maybe at the end of years of study--researchers from different laboratories come to the same conclusions on a given topic in a short period of time.

Other researchers, in fact, have shown that omega-3s have a similar effect to fluoxetine (active ingredient in Prozac) for treating depression, and that a combination of the two treatments achieves a superior effect. The two studies put together suggest that a good level of omega-3 EPA is an important factor in the pharmacological treatment of depression: in fact, the combination of the two substances creates a significant improvement, while the use of drugs is not very effective when the omega-3 level is particularly low.


Féart et al. Plasma eicosapentaenoic acid is inversely associated with severity of depressive symptomatology in the elderly: data from the Bordeaux sample of the Three-City Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 May;87(5):1156-62.