Omega-3 fats have little or no effect on anxiety and depression, according to new research from the University of East Anglia.
The increased consumption of omega-3 fats is widely promoted around the world as it is widely believed to protect against or even reverse conditions such as anxiety and depression.
However, a systematic review published today in the British Journal of Psychiatry shows that omega-3 supplements offer no benefit.
Omega-3 is a type of fat. Small amounts are essential to good health and can be found in the foods we eat, including nuts and seeds, and oily fish like salmon.
Omega-3 fats are also available as over-the-counter diet supplements and are widely purchased and used.
The research team looked at 31 studies in adults with and without depression or anxiety. More than 41,470 participants were randomized to consume more long-chain omega-3 fats (fish oils) or maintain their usual intake for at least six months
They found that the supplements had little or no effect on preventing symptoms of depression or anxiety.
The lead author Dr. Lee Hooper of the UEA’s Norwich Medical School said, “Our previous research has shown that long-chain omega-3 supplements, including fish oils, do not protect against conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes or death.
“This large systematic review included information from many thousands of people over long periods of time. Despite all of this information, we do not see any protective effects.
“The most trusted studies have consistently shown that long-chain omega-3 fats have little or no effect on depression or anxiety, and should not be encouraged for treatment.”
Dr. Katherine Deane of the UEA’s School of Health Sciences said, “Oily fish can be a very nutritious food as part of a balanced diet.
“However, we have found that people who take omega-3 oil supplements to prevent or treat depression and anxiety have no demonstrable value.
“Given the environmental concerns of industrial fishing and the impact on fish stocks and plastic pollution in the oceans, it does not seem helpful to keep swallowing fish oil tablets that are of no use.”
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