EAST ANGLIA, England — Omega-3 fatty acids, found in various nuts, seeds, and oily fish such as salmon, are undeniably good for you. Medical research has found this essential fat to be beneficial to eye, skin, and brain health, among other perks. Besides these physical benefits, omega-3s have also been touted as a mental health aid capable of alleviating and even completely preventing symptoms of anxiety and depression. A new study warns, however, that consuming fish oil supplements may not be so helpful when it comes to mental health after all.
After performing a systematic review of 31 clinical trails involving adults both with and without depression and anxiety, researchers from the University of East Anglia concluded that fish oil supplements have little to no effect on depression and anxiety symptoms.
More than 41,000 participants were randomized to either consume more than their usual amount of fish oil supplements, or continue on taking their usual amount, for a period of six months.
“This large systematic review included information from many thousands of people over long periods. Despite all this information, we don’t see protective effects,” comments lead author Dr. Lee Hooper in a release. “The most trustworthy studies consistently showed little or no effect of long-chain omega-3 fats on depression or anxiety, and they should not be encouraged as a treatment.”
“Oily fish can be a very nutritious food as part of a balanced diet. But we found that there is no demonstrable value in people taking omega-3 oil supplements for the prevention or treatment of depression and anxiety,” adds Dr. Katherine Deane. “Considering the environmental concerns about industrial fishing and the impact it is having on fish stocks and plastic pollution in the oceans, it seems unhelpful to continue to swallow fish oil tablets that give no benefit.”
The study is published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.