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. 2015 Aug 31;13(2):129-37.
doi: 10.9758/cpn.2015.13.2.129.

Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Prevention of Mood and Anxiety Disorders

Free PMC article

Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Prevention of Mood and Anxiety Disorders

Kuan-Pin Su et al. Clin Psychopharmacol Neurosci. .
Free PMC article


Psychiatric disorders in general, and major depression and anxiety disorders in particular, account for a large burden of disability, morbidity and premature mortality worldwide. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have a range of neurobiological activities in modulation of neurotransmitters, anti-inflammation, anti-oxidation and neuroplasticity, which could contribute to psychotropic effects. Here we reviewed recent research on the benefits of omega-3 PUFA supplements in prevention against major depression, bipolar disorders, interferon-α-induced depression patients with chronic hepatitis C viral infection, and posttraumatic stress disorder. The biological mechanisms underlying omega-3 PUFAs'psychotropic effects are proposed and reviewed. Nutrition is a modifiable environmental factor that might be important in prevention medicine, which have been applied for many years in the secondary prevention of heart disease with omega-3 PUFAs. This review extends the notion that nutrition in psychiatry is a modifiable environmental factor and calls for more researches on prospective clinical studies to justify the preventive application of omega-3 PUFAs in daily practice.

Keywords: Anxiety disorders; Clinical trials; Depression; Omega-3 (N-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA); Psychotic disorders.


Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) share the common biological mechanisms of anti-inflammation and neuroplasticity with current antidepressant agents. The heterogeneity of depression could be reflected by the limits of pharmacotherapy and pharmacological classification based on serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. Controversially, the agents that inhibit (i.e., SSRI & SNRI), enhance (i.e., SSRE), or even neglect (i.e., NDRI & SGAs) the serotonin reuptake action could all be approved to be antidepressant treatments, which seem to share common mechanisms of anti-inflammation and neuroplasticity. Interestingly, these two biological mechanisms are applicable not only for antidepressant agents from different categories but also for omega-3 PUFAs. SSRI, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor; SNRI, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors; SSRE, selective serotonin reuptake enhancer; NDRI, norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor; SGA, second generation antipsychotic.

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