Fish Oil and Mental Health

We have previously written about fish oils and discussed how the could have a role when it comes to depression, talking about how they are manufactured, and have even written about how they might play a role in building Muscle Mass. But in regards to fish oil And mental health , we are going to look at the effects of omega 3 fatty acids on different aspects, such as stress, anxiety, and depression.


Anxiety is reported to be the most commonly experienced psychiatric symptom. It is a psychological state in which a person feels inappropriate or exaggerated fear leading to distress or impairment and it is estimated that 1 in 3 of us will suffer from an anxiety disorder in our lifetime. Membranes within the brain contain a high proportion of omega-3 fatty acids and most animal and human studies suggest that a lack of omega-3 in the brain might induce various behavioral and neuropsychiatric disorders, including anxiety-related behaviors (1). In a recent systematic review of 19 studies, including over 1000 participants, omega 3 supplementation was significantly more effective than placebo treatments at reducing measures of anxiety (2). Sub-analysis showed that supplementation was more effective in individuals with specific clinical diagnoses. When the dose of supplementation was examined, it was shown that doses of 2000mg and above per day were most effective.

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omega 3 fish oil and depression

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A 2006 review that examined the published evidence linking n-3 PUFAs and depression, it was noted that with few exceptions, depressed subjects had lower concentrations of EPA and DHA and a higher ratio of n-6 to n-3 PUFAs compared to nondepressed subjects (3). For example, one study showed higher plasma EPA to be associated with a lower severity of depression, especially in those also taking antidepressants (4). Data looking at the effects of supplementation on measures of depression have been mixed to date though. While there are big differences in study designs that likely explain why some studies have seen no benefit of omega 3 supplements, a recent review concluded that there is enough evidence to suggest that omega 3 supplementation could play a role in treatment (5).


There is a growing body of evidence showing the links then between plasma and/or brain levels of omega 3 fatty acids and our mental wellbeing and function. While studies showing the effects of supplementation have mixed results, there is evidence to suggest that at best, they are beneficial, particularly in clinical groups, while at worst they don’t appear to have negative effects.


1 - Müller  CP, Reichel  M, Mühle  C, Rhein  C, Gulbins  E, Kornhuber  J.  Brain membrane lipids in major depression and anxiety disorders.  Biochim Biophys Acta. 2015;1851(8):1052-1065. doi:10.1016/j.bbalip.2014.12.014

2 - Su K, Tseng P, Lin P, et al. Association of Use of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids With Changes in Severity of Anxiety Symptoms: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Netw Open. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.2327

3 - Sontrop, J. and Campbell, M. K. (2006). Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and depression: a review of the evidence and a methodological critique. Prev. Med. 42:4–13.

4 - Feart, C., Peuchant, E., Letenneur, L., Samieri, C., Montagnier, D., Fourrier-Reglat, A. and Barberger-Gateau, P. (2008). Plasma eicosapentaenoic acid is inversely associated with severity of depressive symptomatology in the elderly: data from the Bordeaux sample of the Three-City Study1–3. Am J Clin Nutr 87:1156–1162.

5 - Deacon, G., Kettle, C., Hayes, D., Dennis, C., & Tucci, J. (2017). Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and the treatment of depression. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 57(1), 212-223.


If you are taking any prescribed medication or have any medical conditions ALWAYS consult your doctor or pharmacist BEFORE taking vitamins or supplements. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. If pregnant or lactating, ALWAYS consult your doctor before use. Or if you have any queries about any supplement ALWAYS consult a QUALIFIED medical professional.


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