Omega-3 Fatty Acids Linked with Protection to Depressive Episodes

Depression affects 264 million persons in the world, accounting for some 4.3% of the global burden of disease. Major depressive disorder has significant potential morbidity and mortality, contributing to suicide, incidence and adverse outcomes of medical illness, disruption in interpersonal relationships, substance abuse, and lost work time. 

During 2009–2012, 7.6% of Americans aged 12 and over had depression (moderate or severe depressive symptoms in the past 2 weeks). Depression was more prevalent among females and persons aged 40–59.With appropriate treatment, 70-80% of individuals with major depressive disorder can achieve a significant reduction in symptoms.

Epidemiologic evidence suggests that deficient dietary omega-3 intake is a modifiable risk factor for depression and that individuals with low consumption of omega-3 food sources have more depressive symptoms.

Dietary recommendations

Among all therapies such as physiological and pharmaceutical psychiatric treatment, there  are dietary and activity recommendations to improve the symptoms. 

The low-sodium Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, previously shown to reduce hypertension and stroke risk, may also help ward off depression. Besides being low in sodium, the diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods. A study found that participants who most closely adhered to the diet were 11% less likely to become depressed over time than those least adherent to the diet.

The Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fish, fruits, and vegetables, with olive oil as the main source of fat, protects cognition and can improve mental health in individuals with depression.

New research is suggesting that there are “meaningful” associations between higher dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids and lower risk for depressive episodes.

In a longitudinal study of more than 13,000 participants, consumption of omega-3 fatty acids (total and subtypes) was associated with a 2%-65% reduction in the risk for depressive episodes in patients with depressive episodes at baseline.

In addition, consumption of total fatty acids and alpha-linolenic acid was associated with a reduced risk for incident depressive episodes (9% and 29%, respectively).

These findings suggest that the deficiency of Omega 3 fatty acid in our diet can lead to depressive episodes, especially in the 39-65 year old population. Nonetheless, the limits of the study are very difficult to approach , because all of the variables that can impact on the results such as the change of the diet over time or if the sample takes Omega 3 supplementation , this study was based just on a base-lnie diet. 

More control studies are needed to confirm these findings, on the other hand it is important to note that the diet is not the main treatment of this mental health issue, but is a complement and recommendation that may contribute to see better results on the depression therapy. 


Renata da Conceição Silva Chaves ,Odaleia Barbosa Aguiar ,Arlinda B. Moreno ,André R. Brunoni ,Maria del Carmem B. Molina ,Maria Carmen Viana ,Isabela Bensoñor ,Rosane H. Griep and Maria de Jesus Mendes da Fonseca (June 18, 2022). Consumption of Omega-3 and Maintenance and Incidence of Depressive Episodes: The ELSA-Brasil Study. Nutrients Journal. Retrieved from : 


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