Omega-3s can improve depressive symptoms in older adults
03/08/2019 // Michelle Simmons // Views

As people get older, their health – both physical and mental – may decline. A growing mental health problem among older adults is depression, which is most commonly treated by taking drug antidepressants. However, the harmful side effects of these drugs outweigh their benefits, putting the health of many at risk. Instead, the elderly can beat depression safely and effectively by supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids. A systematic review published in the journal Nutrition Research reveals that taking omega-3 fatty acids safely and effectively improves the mood of older adults with mild to moderate depression.

Omega-3 fatty acids have been previously shown to be promising nutrients for treating depression, but there are currently no systematic reviews available that evaluated these effects. Therefore, researchers from Keimyung University in South Korea analyzed existing randomized control trials on the potential benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in older adults with depression. For the review, they collected six studies that included a total of 4,605 older adults aged 65 years old or older. They divided the participants into two groups: well-being mental health group and depressive group.

Based on data that were gathered, supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids did not significantly affect the mood of participants without depression. On the contrary, omega-3 supplementation significantly improved the depressed mood of participants with depression, compared to placebo. From these findings, the researchers conclude that omega-3 fatty acids may be used to treat older people with mild to moderate depression. (Related: Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, helping prevent depression.)


Omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained from fish, such as mackerel, salmon, seabass, oysters, sardines, shrimp, and trout; from plant foods, such as seaweed and algae, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, edamame, kidney beans, and soybean oil; and from omega-3 supplements, including fish oil and cod liver oil.

Omega-3s in seafood promote healthy aging

A different team of researchers suggests another omega-3 benefit to older adults. Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly those found in seafood, may increase the likelihood of healthy aging among older adults, according to a study published in BMJ.

Earlier studies show that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) derived from seafood and plants could promote healthy aging, but results are inconsistent. Therefore, a team of U.S. researchers assessed the link between blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and healthy aging among older adults. Healthy aging was defined as living without having any chronic disease and mental or physical dysfunction.

For the study, the research team included 2,622 older adults with a mean age of 74 who were enrolled in the US Cardiovascular Health study from 1992 to 2015. They measured the participants' omega-3 levels in the blood at baseline, and after six, and 13 years. These included eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), which are found in seafood, as well as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which mainly come from plants. Then, the researchers divided the participants into five groups according to their levels of omega-3, from lowest to highest.

After reviewing the participants' medical records and diagnostic tests, they discovered that 89 percent of the participants experienced unhealthy aging over the study period, while the remaining 11 percent experienced healthy aging. In addition, they found that levels of seafood-derived EPA in the highest quintile were associated with a 24 percent reduced risk of unhealthy aging than levels in the lowest quintile, even after considering other factors. For DPA levels, the top three quintiles were associated with an 18 to 21 percent decrease in the risk of unhealthy aging. However, seafood-derived DHA and plant-derived ALA were not associated with healthy aging. The research team explained that these reductions occurred because omega-3s help to keep blood pressure, heart rate, and inflammation under control.

After a follow-up period of up to 22 years, the results remained largely unchanged after further analyses. From these findings, the researchers conclude that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids derived from seafood were linked to a lower risk of unhealthy aging among older adults.

Read more news stories and studies on natural ways to beat depression by going to

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