Introduction: Anxiety is prevalent, costly, and associated with significant adverse outcomes. The importance of nutrition is underestimated in the management of mental health disorders. In particular, omega-3 fatty acids (ω-3 FAs) are a critical component for healthy development and have been shown to reduce anxiety symptoms. Objective: This paper reviews the current state of the research to identify potential mechanisms underlying the relationship between ω-3 FAs and anxiety reduction. Method: Studies were identified using PubMed, PsycINFO, and CINAHL databases. Results: Of the 197 full-text studies screened, six met criteria for inclusion. Four mechanisms were identified based on primary outcomes reported by each study, Inflammatory Response, Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), Cortisol, and Cardiovascular Activity. Conclusion: Five key recommendations are provided to guide future research examining ω-3 FAs and anxiety. They include: (1) standardization of dosage and duration of ω-3 supplementation, (2) more rigorous measurement of variables, (3) effective blinding of participants, (4) designing experiments that test mediation, and (5) increasing sample diversity.
Keywords: Anxiety; Brain-derived neurotrophic factor; Inflammation; Omega-3 fatty acids.