Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Treatment Options - Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in cold water fish, marine algae, flaxseed, flax oil, walnuts, and other foods. They have been studied for a number of years as a possible depression treatment and for depressive symptoms in people with bipolar disorder.  

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that perform important functions in your body. Your body doesn’t produce them on its own, so you need to get them from the food you eat. 

Omega-3 fatty acids are an important part of your cell membranes. They help support interaction between your cells and are highly concentrated in your brain and eyes. They also help support other body systems, such as your cardiovascular and endocrine systems. Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids can impact your energy levels.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Depression

Rates of depression are lower in nations where people eat a large amount of fish, leading scientists to study the link between fish oils and treating and preventing depression and other mood disorders. 

Based on the data available, the best use of omega-3 fatty acids is as an adjunct in the treatment of depression. That means that it should be used alongside other, established depression treatments, not on its own to treat depression. 

The specific way that omega-3 fatty acids may help treat depression and mood disorders is not known. It is believed that omega-3 fatty acids may do this in two different ways: 

  • Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the building blocks of brain cells, and they can travel through brain cell membranes and interact with mood-related chemicals in your brain.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids also have anti-inflammatory properties. Both depression and fatigue have been associated with increased inflammation in the immune system. Omega-3 fatty acids may help to control and reduce inflammation in your body. 

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements

In addition to eating foods with omega-3s, you can also take an omega-3 supplement. 

There are different kinds of omega-3 fatty acids. Two specific omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are thought to have the biggest impact on people with depression and other mood disorders. 

The omega-3 fatty acid supplements that have been found to improve depression appear to have at least 60% EPA relative to DHA. Most fish oil supplements do not have this makeup, which is usually shown on the label.

EPA is believed to benefit mood and anxiety disorders.  DHA is essential for brain development during pregnancy and infancy and greatly impacts overall brain health throughout one’s life. 

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements can be a safe and effective depression treatment for the elderly, children, and pregnant individuals. It is important to note that the supplement does have a slightly fishy taste. 

It is important to note that although it is generally considered safe, it may interact with other medications. Before taking an omega-3 supplement, you should discuss this option with your Options MD psychiatrist and general practitioner to ensure that it works with your overall medical history and health situation. 

Omega-3 fatty acids and other supplements for depression are not a substitute for psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. Although supplements may not require a prescription, certain supplements are more safely used under the guidance of a physician.

Supplements are not regulated by the FDA like medications, so you should only purchase supplements from brands that have been evaluated for quality. Supplements are not FDA-approved to treat depression. 

Foods with Omega-3 Fatty Acids

There are many foods that have Omega-3 fatty acids. A diet focused on seeds, nuts, and fish can help you get omega-3 fatty acids, although food does not contain enough EPA to match the clinical dose offered by supplements. 

A few foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids include: 

  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Cod liver oil
  • Herring
  • Oysters
  • Sardines
  • Anchovies
  • Caviar
  • Flaxseed
  • Chia seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Soybeans

Other foods contain omega-3 fatty acids in lower amounts, including

  • Hemp seeds
  • Spinach
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Purslane
  • Pastured eggs
  • Meat and dairy products from grass-fed animals

Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Depression

Finding the proper treatment when you have treatment-resistant depression can be challenging. Omega-3 fatty acids can be used safely alongside other depression treatment options. 

At Options MD, our psychiatrists can discuss the potential risks and benefits of using supplements when putting together a custom plan for your treatment-resistant depression. 

Do you have questions?

Options MD is here to help. Text us to start treatment now. Join our Facebook community to connect with other individuals with treatment-resistant depression.

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