Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and anxiety disorders

Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2009 Nov-Dec;81(5-6):309-12. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2009.10.004. Epub 2009 Nov 10.


Anxiety disorders are a common group of psychiatric illnesses which have significant personal, family and societal costs. Current treatments have limited efficacy in many patients highlighting a need for new therapeutic approaches to be explored. Anxiety disorders exhibit marked comorbity with mood disorders suggesting the existence of mechanistic similarities. Such a notion is supported by observations that some conventional pharmacotherapies are both effective antidepressants and anxiolytics. As such, given that omega-3 PUFA supplementation may be effective in the treatment of major depressive disorder it is reasonable to propose that they may also possess anxiolytic properties. Experimental data in support of such a hypothesis is currently lacking although reduced abundance of omega-3 PUFA have been reported in patients with anxiety, while supplementation with omega-3 PUFA appears to inhibit activation of the HPA axis and can ameliorate some of the symptoms of anxiety. Clinical investigations carried out to date have, however, involved small numbers of participants. Larger trials using a variety of omega-3 PUFA species in clinically well-defined patients with anxiety will be required to demonstrate a therapeutic role for omega-3 PUFA in these disorders. Given the excellent side effect profile of omega-3 PUFA as well as their strong theoretical rationale, such future trials appear justified.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anxiety Disorders / diet therapy
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology
  • Anxiety Disorders / etiology*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Comorbidity
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / physiology*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Mood Disorders / diet therapy
  • Mood Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mood Disorders / etiology


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