Supplementation with eicosapentaenoic omega-3 fatty acid does not influence serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor in diabetes mellitus patients with major depression: a randomized controlled pilot study

Neuropsychobiology. 2011;63(4):219-23. doi: 10.1159/000321804. Epub 2011 Mar 22.


Background: Low brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels are observed in both depressed and diabetes patients. Animal research has shown that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids increase BDNF levels. In this exploratory randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study in diabetes patients with major depression, we tested whether (a) omega- 3 ethyl-eicosapentaenoic acid (E-EPA) leads to increased serum BDNF levels and (b) whether changes in BDNF levels are associated with corresponding changes in depression.

Methods: Patients received 1 g/day E-EPA (n = 13) or placebo (n = 12) for 12 weeks, in addition to ongoing antidepressant therapy. At baseline and 12-week follow-up, we determined serum BDNF levels and depression severity, using the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale.

Results: We found no effect of E-EPA on BDNF levels (t = -0.144, p = 0.887), and changes in BDNF levels and depression severity were not significantly associated (Spearman's ρ = -0.115, p = 0.593).

Conclusion: Our study does not provide evidence that supplementation with E-EPA improves BDNF levels in depressed diabetes patients already using antidepressants.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / blood
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / blood
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / complications
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diet therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / diet therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / pharmacology
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • eicosapentaenoic acid ethyl ester
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid