Depression Is Epidemic, Especially For Young Adults And The Elderly.
Updated Nov 14, 2015
There are dozens of studies that indicate eating fish or taking supplements with Omega-3 fatty acids is beneficial to general overall health as well as reducing the chance of a heart attack or other vascular disorders. Recent journal articles indicate that Omega-3 oil, specifically the oils named EPA and DHA are beneficial for treating depression.
In a study published online in 2013 ( it was performed in 2009 ) an Italian team selected 22 older women ( 66 to 95 years old ) to participate in a test to see if eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA] and docosahesaenoic acid [DHA] were effective in the treatment of Geriatric Depression. The ratio of EPA over DHA was 2 to 1.
After 8 weeks the results, based on the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS), indicated significant improvement of depression in the group of women evaluated.
The teams conclusion is that supplementation with EPA and DHA is efficacious in the reduction of depression and the improvement of the quality of life in depressed older female patients.
Omega-3 is more than just one thing. The ratio of the constituents is important.
There have been a number of studies that were negative regarding the efficacy of Omega-3 relating to the treatment of depression. Further evaluation, however, has shown a flaw in these studies. Data from additional studies shows that it's the EPA that is effective for depression, not the DHA. In fact it is the EPA which is not "opposed" by DHA that provides the benefits of fish oil supplements.
If the ratio of EPA to DHA is 1 to 1 then the beneficial effects of EPA are canceled out. In other words, when EPA and DHA are present in equal amounts EPA provides no benefits for depression. That is why some studies have had negative results. Those studies with negative results either did not have sufficient quantities of EPA or did not have enough EPA "unopposed" by DHA. Omega 3 benefits depression only when the EPA significantly outweighs the DHA in the supplement.
Short Term Treatment With Omega 3 Reduces Depression In Young Adults
In a study performed in 2014 ( and published in 2015 ) a group of young people ( average age 20 ) were given either a placebo ( corn oil ) or LCPUFAs (EPA and DHA ) for 21 days.
The group was 78% female with a Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) score of greater than 10. After 21 days there was a significant difference between the placebo ( corn oil ) group and the Omega-3 group. 67% of the Omega-3 group no longer met the criteria for depression while only 20% of the control group were no longer depressed.
The study conclusion is that LCPUFAs ( long chain poly-unsaturated fatty acids ) were effective in reducing the depressive symptomology in young adults in a relatively short period of time.
What ratio of EPA to DHA is effective in the treatment of depression?
Studies indicate that Omega-3 supplements that contain greater then 60% EPA relative to DHA have proved effective in the reduction of depression. Supplements with less then 60% EPA showed no benefit for the treatment of depression.
The majority of Omega-3 supplements either do not contain adequate EPA levels or the package label does not list the contents. Of the hundreds of products on the market only a few meet our criteria for 60% or greater EPA relative to DHA and testing and approval by a qualified laboratory. We have performed a search and listed our results below.
What is the best Omega-3?
Omega-3 supplements are seldom called by their constituent EPA and DHA components. They are called Fish Oil or Krill Oil or Flax Seed Oil and many more names based on the source of the oil. For the purpose of this article we are not going to discuss Krill Oil compared to Fish Oil, or any other Omega-3 oil. This article is about the benefits of Omega-3 for the treatment of depression, so we will be searching for Omega-3 supplements that have greater then 60% EPA.
When Healthy Oils Go Bad
Just because a healthy oil was sourced from a healthy fish, or healthy seeds, doesn't mean it is still healthy when you get it, or after it has been stored for a long time. Omega-3 oils are particularly fragile and must be handled carefully to prevent oxidation. Omega-3 oils should never be exposed to high heat as they degrade rapidly. There are a number of oils that can take the heat, but Omega-3's cannot. It's important when choosing a supplement that you know how it has been processed and stored before you get it. That is why we recommend using supplements that have been tested and certified to be safe and that the product actually contains what is on the label. One such testing facility is Consumer Lab. We will be listing a number of products below that have the necessary levels of EPA relative to DHA and all have been tested and approved by Consumer Lab.
Listed below are a number of items specifically selected for their EPA content and that have been tested and approved.
If you purchase one of these items by linking from this article we will receive a small (very small) commission on the sale, so we would appreciate you linking through our website.
Thank you for reading our article. You may leave a comment below. Our search has revealed a number of products that meet the criteria for EPA/DHA ratio and have been tested and approved for quality.
Barleans Organic Oils Ultra EPA Fresh Catch Fish Oil
Barleans Organic Oils Ultra EPA-DHA Fresh Catch Fish Oil
Centrum ProNutruents Omega 3
NutriGold Omega-3 Gold
VitaCost Mega EFA
Natural Factors Maximum Triple
Simply Right Triple Strength
NutriGold Triple Strength Omega-3
Minami Nutrition MorEpa Platinum
Click the images below to visit the store where you can purchase the product.
These items are the result of our research and our opinions based on our research. They are not medical advice or recommendations of any sort. These items are our best pick from thousands of formulations and are not intended to be the best available. This list may change from time to time as more research reveals a better pick. Feel free to comment with your own opinions and experience.