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Omega-3 Fat Intake May Reduce Depressive Symptoms While Improving Brain Function and Volume

  [ 9 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • December 31, 2013

Omega-3 Fat Intake May Reduce Depressive Symptoms While Improving Brain Function and Volume

Press Release

DENVER, Dec. 23, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Recent research shows that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), namely EPA and DHA, lower triglycerides in people treated with statins, reduce risk of depressive symptoms in women and improve executive functions in healthy, older adults. These and other findings are summarized in the December 2013 PUFA Newsletter for health professionals.

Elevated triglycerides (blood fats) are associated with higher risks of cardiovascular and total mortality as well as pancreatitis. In a recent study, 224 statin-treated patients from nine countries with very high levels of triglycerides were treated with high doses of EPA for 12 weeks. Their triglyceride concentrations fell by about 27 and 7 percent with intake of 4 grams/day and 2 grams/day, respectively. Another study with 623 men and women from 96 U.S. sites reported that those consuming 2 or 4 grams per day of omega-3 PUFAs for six weeks had significant reductions in their triglycerides as well.

"EPA and DHA are among the most effective agents for reducing triglyceride levels without the undesirable side effects that may accompany other medications," says PUFA Newsletter Editor Joyce Nettleton, D.Sc.  

A German study looked at the impact of EPA and DHA supplementation on executive functions – the regulation and control of cognitive processes like working memory, reasoning, problem solving and planning – and brain structure in healthy, older adults. After 26 weeks, executive functions were significantly enhanced with omega-3 consumption and participants had greater brain volumes, whereas brain volumes decreased in the placebo-treated participants.

"While improving executive functions is significant, it may be that the changes in brain volume and structure are more important for the prevention of cognitive decline," notes Nettleton.

A large observational study among African-American and Caucasian, middle-aged adults in the U.S. examined the consumption of omega-3 and omega-6 PUFAs and the occurrence of self-reported depressive symptoms. Women with higher intakes of total omega-3 PUFAs – whether or not relative to total omega-6 PUFA intakes – had significantly lower risks of developing such symptoms.

"The study shows not only the potential for higher EPA and DHA intakes to reduce the risk of depressive symptoms, but also the encouraging possibility that higher intakes of omega-3 PUFAs are linked to elevated mood," observes Nettleton. "Now that's something to smile about indeed."

To read more about these and other studies, go to

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