Combined application of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid on depression in women: a meta-analysis of double-blind randomized controlled trials

Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2015 Aug 10;11:2055-61. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S86581. eCollection 2015.


Objectives: Previous randomized controlled trials (RCTs) suggest that depression can be effectively treated by omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Therefore, we conducted this meta-analysis to systematically evaluate the clinical applicability of the combination of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which are the two major bioactive types of PUFAs, in depressed women.

Methods: RCTs that compared the combination of DHA and EPA to placebo for short-course treatment of depression in women were systematically reviewed up to March 2015. Outcome measurement was the standardized difference in means in clinical measure of depression severity. Random effect model was performed. Meta-regression analysis was performed to assess the effects of baseline depression scores.

Results: Data were obtained from eight RCTs. In these RCTs, 182 patients received placebo and 185 patients received DHA and EPA. The pooled standardized difference in mean was 0.65 with 95% CI = [0.18, 1.12]. There was no relation between the efficacy and the baseline depression scores. The sensitivity analysis found that the combination of EPA and DHA as monotherapy yielded a standardized difference in means of 0.65 (95% CI =0.41, 0.90) without heterogeneity.

Discussion: These results indicate a beneficial effect of the combination of EPA and DHA on depressed mood in women compared with placebo. The clinical applicability of EPA and DHA showed greater promise and should be further explored.

Keywords: DHA; EPA; PUFAs; depression; docosahexaenoic acid; eicosapentaenoic acid; omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.