Psychological Stress: Omega 3 - Fish Oil Found to Help
Depression has been estimated to be one of the leading causes of disease-induced disability (1), with women having twice the risk of experiencing depression than men (2). Studies from Canada report that nearly 6% of women and nearly 4% of men experienced a major depressive episode (MDE) during the previous year (3). Major depressive disorder (MDD) is projected to be the second leading cause of disability worldwide by the year 2020 (4). MDD patients have lower levels of physical and emotional functioning than normal subjects (5) and contribute significantly to the $83.1 billion depression as a whole cost society in 2000 (6).
Because depression and psychological stress can lead to other health problems like diabetes (7), ways to help deal with psychological stress with either prescription drugs or alternative treatments are increasingly in demand. Now a new study (8) has found that fish oil may help with psychological stress in pre-menopausal women.
The study involved 120 women aged 40 to 55 who were diagnosed with moderate to severe psychological distress (PD), defined as having a Psychological Well-Being (PGWB) (10) score of less than 72. The were given either 1500 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per day (three 500-mg capsules) or placebo (three 500-mg capsules of soybean oil) for four weeks and then stopped supplementation for four weeks. They completed several psychiatric exams at weeks 0, 4 and 8 that included the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (9), the HAM-D-21 (10), and the Clinical Global Impression Severity Scale (CGS) (11). Twenty-nine of the patients were diagnosed as having Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).
The researchers found that significant improvements were seen in patients without MDD. By week 8, those in the fish oil group had improvement in HSCL-D-20, HAM-D-21, and CGS scores that were 23%, 32%%, and 31% higher, respectively, than those in the placebo group. Those in the fish oil group had a 34% greater increase in their Psychological Well-Being (PGWB) score than those in the placebo group.
For the researchers, "To our knowledge, this is the first trial of n-3 supplementation in the treatment of PD and depressive symptoms in middle-aged women. Women with PD without MDE at baseline, the 8-wk changes in PD and depressive scales improved significantly more with E-EPA than with placebo"
1. Murray, CJL & Lopez, AD. Alternative visions of the future: projecting mortality and disability, 1990-2020. In: , Murray, CJL & Lopez, AD, eds. The global burden of disease: a comprehensive assessment of mortality and disability from diseases, injuries, and risk factors in 1990 and projected to 2020. Boston, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996, 325-97.
2. Kessler, RC. Epidemiology of women and depression. J Affect Disord 2003;74:5-13
3. Statistics Canada. Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS): mental health and well-being. Version current 9 September 2004. Available from: http://www.statcan.ca/english/freepub/82-617-XIE/ (cited October 2007)..
4. Murray, C.J. and A.D. Lopez, Global mortality, disability, and the contribution of risk factors: Global Burden of Disease Study. Lancet, 1997. 349(9063): p. 1436-42
5. Stewart, A.L., et al., Functional status and well-being of patients with chronic conditions. Results from the Medical Outcomes Study. Jama, 1989. 262(7): p. 907-13
6. Greenberg, P.E., et al., The economic burden of depression in the United States: how did it change between 1990 and 2000? J Clin Psychiatry, 2003. 64(12): p. 1465-75
7. Talbot, F. and A. Nouwen, A review of the relationship between depression and diabetes in adults: is there a link? Diabetes Care, 2000. 23(10): p. 1556-62
8. Lucas M. Ethyl-eicosapentaenoic acid for the treatment of psychological distress and depressive symptoms in middle-aged women: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial Am J Clin Nutr 2009 89: 641-651. First published online December 30, 2008; doi:10.3945/ajcn.2008.26749
9. Lecrubier, Y, Sheehan, DV, Weiller, E, et al.. The Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI): a short diagnostic structured interview: reliability and validity according to the CIDI. Eur Psychiatry 1997;12:224-31
10. Dupuy, H. The Psychological General Well-Being (PGWB) Index. In: , Wenger, NK, Mattson, ME, Furber, CD et al., eds. Assessment of quality of life in clinical trials of cardiovascular therapies. Chapter 9. New York, NY: Le Jacq Publishing Inc, 1984:170-83.
11. Hamilton, M. Development of a rating scale for primary depressive illness. Br J Soc Clin Psychol 1967;6:278-96.
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