Depressive Symptoms Reduced with EPA/DHA Supplementation in Elderly Depressed Patients

June 30, 2011


Long Chain Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Supplementation in the Treatment of Elderly Depression : Effects on Depressive Symptoms , on Phospholipids Fatty Acids Profile and on Health-Related Quality of Life
Rondanelli et al., J. Nutr., Health and Aging , 15: 37-44 ,2011
Dept. of Applied Health Sciences , Section of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, Faculty Of Medicine, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy


The present intervention trial evaluated the potential for omega-3 supplementation to improve depressive symptoms and health-related quality of life in elderly female patients. This work was of particular interest since the prevalence of depressive symptoms in elderly hospitalized patients often approaches up to 30% or more. The target group for this study were 46 depressed elderly patients (all female) in a nursing home in Italy ranging in age from 66-95 years .The study was a double-blind randomized trial with one group of subjects assigned to receive a placebo (control group) and the other group receiving supplementation (liquid oil) daily with 2.5 grams omega-3 daily (1.7 gm EPA plus 0.8 gm DHA) for two months. Depressive symptoms were assessed through the use of the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) before and after the two month treatment period. A significant lowering of the GDS at two months was found for those in the omega-3 group but not for the controls. Further, 44 % of the patients in the omega-3 group showed an improvement in social functioning and 0 % worsened as compared to 5 % improved and 52 % worsened in the placebo group. In terms of mental health, 83 % of the patients improved in the omega-3 group while 17 % worsened. In contrast, only 38 % improved in the placebo group while 52 % worsened. As expected, the EPA and DHA levels in the blood samples rose in the omega-3 group but not in the placebo group (controls). No relevant side effects were observed with omega-3 supplementation.

The authors concluded that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids (as EPA plus DHA) in elderly female patients reduces the occurrence of depressive symptoms and improved their health-related quality of life.

Dr. Holub's Comments:

The significant reduction in depressive symptoms in this elderly female population residing in a nursing home with omega-3 supplementation and the improvement in quality of life (physical and mental functioning) implies that such supplementation should be considered for implementation as standard nutritional care within and outside such institutions. Such over-the-counter omega-3 supplementation can be purchased (retail) in North America at many outlets for a much lesser cost than numerous other supplements. Many in the elderly population prefer quality liquid oils containing EPA/DHA rather than encapsulated products for ease of swallowing. Of course, proper storage and oxidative stability is important.

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