American Psychiatric Association Recommends Fish Oil for Patients

A recent American Psychiatric Association committee recom-I mended that all patients with mood, impulse-control, or psychotic disorders should consume 1 gram of EPA + DHA per day. They also suggested that a supplemental dose ranging up to 9 grams may be beneficial (but any dose greater than 3 grams should be monitored by a physician).

Source: Freeman, et al. "Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Evidence Basis for Treatment and Future Research in Psychiatry." Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (67) 2006: 1954-67.

Because of the mounting evidence that links cardiovascular disease and depression, the researchers suggested that depressed patients would benefit from omega-3 supplementation for better mood and to prevent heart disease.

So far, depression studies show that the effective dose of omega-3s to improve symptoms ranges from one gram to two grams a day. DHA alone has not been shown to improve mood, while both EPA alone and fish oil (which contains both DHA and EPA) have shown improvement. While there is no established clinical dose of omega-3 fats for depression, the American Psychiatric Association recommends fish oil for all patients with mood disorders.

Postpartum Depression. Postpartum depression is associated with low intake of omega-3 fat, especially DHA. Both lower DHA content in breast milk and lower seafood consumption are linked with higher rates of postpartum depression in 23 different countries. Surprisingly, there are few treatment studies.

The first reported case of successful treatment was published in February 2003 in the American Journal of Psychiatry. A 34-year-old woman (24 weeks pregnant) had clinical depression, including suicidal thoughts. She refused antidepressant medication because of possible birth defects in her baby. As an alternative, she was given two grams of DHA with four grams of EPA, and by the fourth week of supplementation, her depression began to lift. By the sixth week, her thoughts of suicide disappeared altogether.

Kids Get Depressed, Too. An encouraging study on children ages 6 to 12 diagnosed with depression showed that omega-3 fat supplementation markedly reduced symptoms. By the end of the 16-week study, 40 percent of the kids taking the omega-3s no longer felt depressed. Not a single child in the placebo group had this relief.

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