Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Depression: A Review of the Evidence

Centro di Medicina dell'Invecchiamento, Dipartimento di Scienze Gerontologiche, Geriatriche e Fisiatriche, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Rome, Italy.
Current pharmaceutical design (Impact Factor: 3.45). 12/2009; 15(36):4165-72. DOI: 10.2174/138161209789909683
Source: PubMed


Brain lipids contain a high proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), which are a main component of cell membranes. Omega-3 (omega-3) PUFA eicosapentaeoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the most common PUFA in the brain. The physiological roles of omega-3 PUFA in the brain include regulation of cell membrane fluidity, dopaminergic and serotoninergic transmission, membrane-bound enzymes and cellular signal transduction. They are also thought to play a role in brain glucose metabolism, eicosanoid synthesis, gene expression, cell growth and protection from apoptosis. Increasing evidence from animal and human research shows omega-3 PUFA depletion may play an etiological role in several inflammatory, autoimmune and neuropsychiatric disorders. In particular, an association between omega-3 PUFA and depression was repeatedly suggested in observational and experimental studies on populations affected by major depression, depressed mood or post-partum depression. Consistently, the potential therapeutic role of omega-3 PUFA dietary supplementation was tested in clinical trials on depression. The current review identifies and evaluates available epidemiological evidence of a negative relationship between omega-3 PUFA and depression and examines its biological plausibility. Although current evidence increasingly supports an inverse association between omega-3 PUFA and depression, the validity of findings from observational and experimental research is limited by several methodological issues. Further studies with larger sample sizes and more sophisticated design are required to provide convincing evidence of a causal relationship between omega-3 PUFA and depression.

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    • "A brief description of the observational studies that have examined the association between maternal fatty acid status and depressive disorders is provided in Table 1 (Jacka et al. 2004; Browne et al. 2006; Miyake et al. 2006; Sánchez-Villegas et al. 2007; Appleton et al. 2008a; Astorg et al. 2008; Murakami et al. 2008; Sontrop et al. 2008; Colangelo et al. 2009; Golding et al. 2009; Rees et al. 2009; Strom et al. 2009). Most of these studies have examined the relationship between dietary intakes and depression, and have been included in previous reviews (Liperoti et al. 2009; Ramakrishnan et al. 2009; Murakami & Sasaki 2010). One study (Appleton et al. 2008a) found no association between biochemical measures of LCPUFA status and depression in a cross-sectional analysis of data collected from women who entered an intervention trial. "
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    ABSTRACT: Maternal mental health (MMH) problems are a major public health concern with adverse consequences for women, their offspring and families. Intake of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially the n-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid, which are found predominantly in cold water fish, has been associated with a range of mental health outcomes and may improve MMH. The demands for these fatty acids are increased during pregnancy and lactation, and may influence MMH as they are integral parts of cell membranes especially in the brain and play a role in physiological processes such as membrane fluidity and neurotransmitter function. Observational studies and intervention trials that have examined the role of fatty acids and MMH disorders especially post-partum depression (PPD) were identified using Pubmed and have been reviewed. Only three well-designed large prospective studies were identified; these studies examined the relationship between dietary intakes of n-3 fatty acids and fish during pregnancy, and found limited evidence of an association with PPD. Several intervention trials (n=8) have been done but generally suffer from small sample size and vary in terms of the study subject characteristics and timing, duration and dosage of the intervention. The results are mixed, but one recently completed large trial found no evidence of benefit among women who received DHA during pregnancy. Few studies have been conducted in developing countries, and gaps remain on the influence of other nutrient deficiencies, genetic polymorphisms that influence n-3 fatty acid synthesis and total fatty acid intake.
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