New research published in Translational Psychiatry supports the link between omega-3 supplementation and a reduction in major depressive disorder (MDD). 

Earlier studies have suggested omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) supplementation as a possible adjuvant treatment for MDD. Dr. RJT Mocking, from the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and colleagues, conducted a meta-analysis which included 13 randomized, placebo-controlled studies with 1,233 patients. 

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A meta-regression was also performed to test whether the effects of supplementation was dependent on eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) or docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) dose, their ratio, study duration, patients’ age, antidepressant use, baseline MDD symptom severity, publication year, and study quality. Studies that evaluated perinatal/perimenopausal or comorbid MDD were excluded from the analysis to limit heterogeneity.

The data showed an overall benefit for omega-3 PUFAs on depressive symptoms in MDD (standardized mean difference 0.398 [0.114-0.682]; P=0.006). The meta-regression analysis showed that higher doses of EPA supplementation (P=0.009), higher percentage antidepressant users (P=0.044), and earlier publication year (P=0.04) were significantly associated with better outcome for PUFA supplementation. 

Overall, the present findings suggest a beneficial effect of omega-3 PUFA supplementation in MDD patients especially for higher EPA doses and in patients taking antidepressants. Future studies should assess whether possible EPA and antidepressant interactions could “provide targets to improve antidepressant response and its prediction.” 

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