Overview: Whilst the majority of evidence supports the adjunctive use of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in improving mood, to date no study exists using low-dose docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) alone as an adjunctive treatment in patients with mild to moderate major depressive disorder (MDD).
Methods: A naturalistic 8-week open-label pilot trial of low-dose DHA, (260 mg or 520 mg/day) in 28 patients with MDD who were non-responsive to medication or psychotherapy, with a Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D) score of greater than 17, was conducted. Primary outcomes of depression, clinical severity, and daytime sleepiness were measured.
Results: After 8 weeks, 54% of patients had a ≥50% reduction on the HAM-D, and 45% were in remission (HAM-D ≤ 7). The eta-squared statistic (0.59) indicated a large effect size for the reduction of depression (equivalent to Cohen's d of 2.4). However confidence in this effect size is tempered due to the lack of a placebo. The mean score for the Clinical Global Impression Severity Scale was significantly improved by 1.28 points (P < 0.05). Despite a significant reduction in the HAM-D score for middle insomnia (P = 0.02), the reduction in excessive daytime somnolence on the total Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) did not reach significance. No significant adverse reactions to DHA were found.
Conclusion: Within the major limits of this open-label pilot study, the results suggest that DHA may provide additional adjunctive benefits in patients with mild- to -moderate depression.
Keywords: Adjunctive; DHA; Depression; Docosahexaenoic acid; Omega-3.