Long chain omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids supplementation in the treatment of elderly depression: effects on depressive symptoms, on phospholipids fatty acids profile and on health-related quality of life

J Nutr Health Aging. 2011 Jan;15(1):37-44. doi: 10.1007/s12603-011-0011-y.


Objective: Recent observations showed that long chain omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 LCPUFA) could represent a potential treatment for elderly depression. To determine if a n-3 LCPUFA containing supplement improves depressive symptoms, changes phospholipids acids profile and ameliorates Health related quality of life (HRQoL) in depressed elderly patients.

Design: Two-months, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

Setting: Nursing home in Pavia, Italy.

Subjects: Forty-six depressed females, aged 66-95 years.

Intervention: 22 depressed females were included in the intervention group (n-3 group, that received 2.5 g/day of n-3 LCPUFA, with 1.67 grams of EPA and 0.83 grams of DHA), and 24 patients in the placebo group. The primary endpoint was the improvement of depressive symptoms as evaluated by Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS). Secondary endpoints were the evaluation of modifications of erythrocyte membrane phospholipids fatty acid profile and of of HRQoL, by using the Short-Form 36-Item Health Survey (SF-36). All parameters were assessed before and after the treatment period of 8 weeks.

Results: The mean GDS at 2 months was significantly lowered only for the n-3 group. SF-36 physical and mental components were significantly increased in the intervention group. Compliance was good, as confirmed by erythrocyte membrane phospholipid FA concentrations, with significant increase of EPA and DHA in the intervention group.

Conclusion: The supplementation of n-3 LCPUFA in elderly female patients reduces the occurrence of depressive symptoms, improves phospholipids fatty acids profile and health-related quality of life.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Depression / blood
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / chemistry
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / drug effects*
  • Fatty Acids / analysis
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / blood
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment / methods*
  • Humans
  • Patient Compliance
  • Phospholipids / chemistry*
  • Quality of Life*


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Phospholipids