Omega-3 fatty acids significantly reduced or eliminated symptoms of major depression in children, according to results from a new study. Doctors from the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, noted that previous studies showed positive effects of omega-3s on adult depression, but that there were no studies of the effects of omega-3s on childhood depression. Researchers recruited 28 children with major depression between the ages of 6 and 12 and randomly assigned omega-3 fatty acids—an over-the-counter combination of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)—or a placebo for 16 weeks.
Twenty of the children remained in the study for at least one month and doctors measured symptoms of depression at the beginning of the study and at two, four, eight, 12 and 16 weeks. The symptom tests included interviews with parents and teachers, reports by the children themselves and evaluations by clinicians. According to results from the parent-teacher interviews, seven out of 10 of the children in the omega-3 group had 50% fewer symptoms, including four of the children who went into complete remission. There were no changes in depression scores for children who took the placebo as reported by the parent-teacher interviews.
The children who took omega-3s also reported significantly fewer symptoms themselves, as did clinicians who interviewed the children. Children who had taken the placebo did not report feeling any better, nor did clinicians find that symptoms improved in this group. The doctors also observed no relevant side effects and the children reported no side effects.
Previous studies have shown that omega-3s reduced learning difficulties, behavioral problems and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. Several studies have shown that those with depression have reduced blood flow to the brain and doctors believe that omega-3s increase this blood flow.