A 2015 preliminary randomized, placebo-controlled trial indicates that omega-3 fatty acids may benefit those diagnosed with clinical depression. In this fairly straightforward analysis, 23 undergraduate students (78% female) were randomly assigned to receive a placebo or 1.4 grams of EPA (1000 mg) and DHA (400 mg) for 21 days. All of the study participants had a Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) score of greater than 10. Outcomes were based solely on the BDI, which was completed at the beginning of the study and on day 21. A total of 21 participants actually completed the study (62% female).

After just three weeks of supplementation, there was a significant difference between the two groups. In fact, 67% of the people taking the omega-3 supplements no longer met the criteria for being depressed, whereas only 20% in the placebo group were no longer diagnosed with depression. At baseline there were no differences in BDI scores between the two groups. Post-hoc analysis demonstrated a significant reduction in symptoms of depression in the omega-3 group, while there was no significant change in the placebo group’s scores.

The results of this study are consistent with previous studies showing that omega-3 supplementation can reduce depression and symptoms of depression. This study, however, is the first to evaluate what is considered to be a fairly low dose of omega-3s for a short duration. In addition, using grad students as the research population is interesting because studies indicate that more than two-thirds of college students report feelings of sadness and one-third feel so sad that it interrupts their ability to function. It appears as though low dose omega-3 supplementation is a prudent recommendation for patients experiencing symptoms of depression.


Ginty AT, Conklin SM. Short-term supplementation of acute long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may alter depression status and decrease symptomology among young adults with depression: A preliminary randomized and placebo controlled trial. Psychiatry Research. 2015;229:485-489.

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