By Camille Chatterjee, published on September 1, 1999 - last reviewed on August 30, 2004
It's well-accepted that oily fish like salmon and mackerel are
packed with fats called omega-3 fatty acids that can reduce the risk of
heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis, as well as inflammatory diseases
like arthritis. But less well-known are the benefits of omega-3s on mood
disorders like depression.
Andrew Stoll, M.D., and a team of researchers conducted a study to
determine whether patients with bipolar or manic depression would see
their blues disappear after adding omega-3 fatty acids to their normal
course of antidepressants. The team gave seven capsules of fish oil
concentrate or an olive oil placebo twice daily to 30 volunteers and
monitored them over a four-month period.
Stoll, a physician at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., found that
the group of patients consuming fish oil pills in addition to their
normal medication ultimately showed fewer symptoms than patients taking
only their regular drug therapy. Furthermore, of eight patients in the
study taking no antidepressants at all, the four who were given the
omega-3 treatment remained depression-free for longer than patients
taking a placebo pill.
While researchers remain unsure of how omega-3 fatty acids help to
alleviate manic depression's highs and lows -- though they suspect it
involves the substance incorporating itself into nervous tissue -- they do
know that their finding may herald a new class of low-cost, natural