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Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Major Depressive Disorder

Marlene P. Freeman, MD

Published: November 15, 2009

Article Abstract

Patients with major depressive disorder have high rates of cardiovascular disease and other medical comorbidity. Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly those found in fish and seafood, have cardiovascular health benefits and may play an adjunctive role in the treatment of mood disorders. However, existing studies on omega-3 fatty acids in depression have limitations such as small sample sizes and awide variance in study design, and results regarding efficacy are mixed. The preponderance of data from placebo-controlled treatment studies suggests that omega-3 fatty acids are a reasonable augmentation strategy for the treatment of major depressive disorder. More research is necessary before omega-3 supplements can be recommended as monotherapy for the treatment of depression. For many individuals with major depressive disorder, augmentation with omega-3 fatty acids should be considered, as general health benefits are well established and adjunctive use is low risk.

From the Center for Women’s Mental Health, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

This article is derived from the planning teleconference series "The Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicines to Achieve Remission in Major Depressive Disorder," which was held in May 2009 and supported by an educational grant from Pamlab, LLC.

During the past 3 years, Dr Freeman has received research funding from Forest, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, and the US Food and Drug Administration, and has received CME/honorarium from KV Pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca, Forest (APA Industry-Supported Symposium at annual meeting), DSM Nutritionals (for medical editing), Consulting-Reliant, Ther-Rx, and Pamlab.

Corresponding author: Marlene P. Freeman, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital, Simches Research Building, Floor 2, 185 Cambridge St, Boston, MA 02114 (

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