The role of fatty acids in the development and treatment of mood disorders

Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2008 Jan;21(1):19-24. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e3282f29841.


Purpose of review: There is increasing evidence from epidemiological, case-control and randomized clinical trials for a link between omega-3 deficiency and the development of mood disorders. This article examines recent evidence for this association.

Recent findings: During the past year our understanding of the effect of omega-3 depletion on the structure and function of the brain has been furthered by research examining human brain tissue and by studies utilizing animal models of depression. Human and animal research has also provided further evidence for omega-3 affecting mood via its anti-inflammatory effects. Previous clinical trials indicated that omega-3 can be effective as an adjunctive treatment for those with treatment-resistant depression. More recent clinical trial data indicate that omega-3 may also be an effective monotherapy for childhood depression and for depressed mood in patients who engage in recurrent self-harm. The recent clinical trial data regarding omega-3 as a treatment for bipolar disorder are inconclusive, however, and clinical trials in postnatal depression are still lacking.

Summary: This article reviews the most important recent papers in this burgeoning and interesting research area.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bipolar Disorder / drug therapy
  • Bipolar Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Bipolar Disorder / psychology
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / physiology
  • Child
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Resistance
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Secondary Prevention


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3