Omega 3 Fatty Acids Benefits

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Omega 3 Fatty Acids Benefits

Omega 3 fatty acids benefits and fish oil benefits are one and the same. Fish oil tables generally contain all the omega family fatty acids. Specifically however we are talking about omega 3 fatty acids as they are the primary fatty acid found in fish oil supplements

Omega 3 fatty acids are thought to have membrane-enhancing capabilities in brain cells and to help the brain repair damage by promoting neuronal growth.[1]One medical explanation is that Omega 3 fatty acids play a role in the fortification of the myelin sheaths. Not coincidentally, Omega 3 fatty acids comprise approximately eight percent of the average human brain according to Dr. David Horrobin, a pioneer in fatty acid research.
Ralph Holman of the University of Minnesota, another major researcher in studying essential fatty acids, who gave Omega-3 its name, related Omega 3 components  to the human brain by stating that “DHA is structure, EPA is function.”

Consequently, the past decade of Omega 3 fatty acid research has procured some Western interest as being a legitimate ‘brain food.’

Can Omega 3 fatty acids help ADHD, Austism
and developmental coordination dissorder?

Although not supported by current scientific evidence as a primary treatment for ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, and other developmental differences,[12][13]omega-3 fatty acids have gained popularity for children with these conditions.[12]A 2004 Internet survey found that 29% of surveyed parents used essential fatty acid supplements to treat children with autistic spectrum disorders.[14] Double blind studies have showed “medium to strong treatment effects of omega 3 fatty acids on symptoms of ADHD” after administering amounts around 1 gram per day for three to six months.[15][16][17]

There is very little scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of omega-3 fatty acids for autism spectrum disorders.[18] One randomized controlled trial found that omega-3 fatty acids did not significantly affect aberrant behavior in autistic children, and although the investigators noted reduced hyperactivity,[19] their later reanalysis reported that the reduction was not statistically significant.[20]

Can Omega 3 fatty acids help Schizophrenia and Huntington’s disease?

In a six-month study involving people with schizophrenia and Huntington’s disease who were treated with E-EPA or a placebo, the placebo group had clearly lost cerebral tissue, while the patients given the supplements had a significant increase of grey and white matter.[21]

In the prefrontal cortex of the brain, low brain Omega 3 fatty acids are thought to lower the dopaminergic neurotransmission in this brain area, possibly contributing to the negative and neurocognitive symptoms in schizophrenia. This reduction in dopamine system function in the  prefrontal cortex may lead to an overactivity in dopaminergic function in the limbic system of the brain which is suppressive controlled by the  prefrontal cortex dopamine system, causing the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. This is called the Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acid/dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia (Ohara, 2007). This mechanism may explain why Omega 3 supplementation shows effects against both positive, negative and neurocognitive symptoms in schizophrenia.

Can Omega 3 fatty acids help Bipolar disorder or depression?

The role of Omega 3 fatty acids as a non-prescription treatment for certain psychiatric and mental diagnoses and has become a topic of much research and speculation.

In 1998, Andrew L. Stoll, MD and his colleagues at Harvard University conducted a small double-blind placebo-controlled study in thirty patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Most subjects in this study were already undergoing psychopharmacological treatment (e.g. 12 out of the 30 were taking lithium). Over the course of four months, he gave 15 subjects capsules containing olive oil, and another 15 subjects capsules containing nine grams of pharmaceutical-quality EPA and DHA. The study showed that subjects in the Omega 3 group were less likely to experience a relapse of symptoms in the four months of the study. Moreover, the Omega 3 group experienced significantly more recovery than the placebo group. However, a commentary on the Stoll study notes that the improvement in the Omega 3 group was too small to be clinically significant.[22] Though Stoll believes that the 1999 experiment was not as optimal as it could have been and has accordingly pursued further research, the foundation has been laid for more researchers to explore the theoretical association between absorbed Omega 3 fatty acids and signal transduction inhibition in the brain.[23]

Several epidemiological studies suggest covariation between seafood consumption and rates of mood disorders.

Deficits in omega-3 fatty acids have been identified as a contributing factor to mood disorders and offer a potential rational treatment approach.”[24]

In 2004, a study found that 100 suicide attempt patients on average had significantly lower levels of EPA in their blood as compared to controls.[25]

In 2006 the Omega-3 Fatty Acids Subcommittee, assembled by the Committee on Research on Psychiatric Treatments of the American Psychiatric Association stated the following: “The preponderance of epidemiologic and tissue compositional studies supports a protective effect of omega-3 essential fatty acids intake, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), in mood disorders.

EPA and DHA appear to have negligible risks and some potential benefit in major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder, but results remain inconclusive in most areas of interest in psychiatry.

Another meta-analysis published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in 2007, based on 10 clinical trials, found that Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids significantly improved depression in patients with both unipolar and bipolar disorder. However, based upon the heterogeneity of the trials, the authors concluded that “more large-scale, well-controlled trials are needed to find out the favorable target subjects, therapeutic dose of EPA and the composition of omega-3 PUFAs in treating depression”.[26]

A small American trial, published in 2009, suggests that E-EPA, as monotherapy, has an advantage over placebo in major depressive disorder.[27]

Biological marker studies indicate deficits in omega−3 fatty acids in people with depressive disorders, while several treatment studies indicate therapeutic benefits from omega-3 supplementation.

Bits and pieces

  • The Canadian Government has recognized the importance of DHA omega-3 and permits the following biological role claim for DHA: “DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, supports the normal development of the brain, eyes and nerves.”[2]
  • There is preliminary evidence that n-3 fatty acids supplementation might be helpful in cases of depression
  • [3][4]and anxiety.[5][6] Studies report improvement from n-3 fatty acids supplementation alone and in conjunction with medication.[7]
  • A novel n-3 fatty acid ester known as E-EPA may play a special role in reducing  memory impairment[8] and depression.[9]
  • Long-chain n-3 fatty acids may help prevent psychotic disorders in high-risk children and adolescents.[10]
  • Fish oil has been shown to have no effect on cognitive performance in older individuals without dementia.[11]


  1. Trivedi, Bijal (2006-09-23). “The good, the fad, and the unhealthy”. New Scientist: pp. 42–49.
  2. Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Summary Table of Biological Role Claims Table 8-2.
  3. Su, Kuan-Pin; Huang, Shih-Yi; Chiub, Chih-Chiang; Shenc, Winston W. (2003). “Omega-3 fatty acids in major depressive disorder: A preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled trial”. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol 13 (4): 267–271. doi:10.1016/S0924-977X(03)00032-4. PMID 12888186.
  4. Naliwaiko, K.; Araújo, R.L.; da Fonseca, R.V.; Castilho, J.C.; Andreatini, R.; Bellissimo, M.I.; Oliveira, B.H.; Martins, E.F.; Curi, R.; Fernandes, L.C.; Ferraz, A.C. (April 2004). “Effects of fish oil on the central nervous system: a new potential antidepressant?”. Nutritional Neuroscience (Maney) 7 (2): 91–99. doi:10.1080/10284150410001704525.PMID 15279495.
  5. Green, Pnina; Hermesh, Haggai; Monselisec, Assaf; Maromb, Sofi; Presburgerb, Gadi; Weizman, Abraham (2006). “Red cell membrane omega-3 fatty acids are decreased in nondepressed patients with social anxiety disorder”. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol 16 (2): 107–113. doi:10.1016/j.euroneuro.2005.07.005. PMID 16243493.
  6. Yehuda S., Rabinovitz S., Mostofsky D.I. (2005). “Mixture of essential fatty acids lowers test anxiety”. Nutritional Neuroscience 8 (4): 265–267. doi:10.1080/10284150500445795. PMID 16491653.
  7. Nemets, Boris; Stahl, Ziva; Belmaker, R.H. (2002). “Addition of omega-3 fatty acid to maintenance medication treatment for recurrent unipolar depressive disorder”. Am J Psychiatry 159 (3): 477–479. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.159.3.477. PMID 11870016.
  8. Taepavarapruk P, Song C. (Dec 2009) “Reductions of acetylcholine release and nerve growth factor expression are correlated with memory impairment induced by interleukin-1beta administrations: effects of omega-3 fatty acid EPA treatment.” J Neurochem. [2]
  9. Mischoulon D, Papakostas GI, Dording CM, et al. (Dec 2009) “A double-blind, randomized controlled trial of ethyl-eicosapentaenoate for major depressive disorder.” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Free Full Text
  10. Amminger GP, Schäfer M, Papageorgiou K, et al. (Jan 2010)Long-Chain -3 Fatty Acids for Indicated Prevention of Psychotic Disorders: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010;67(2):146-154. [ Full Free Text]
  11. van de Rest, O.; Geleijnse, J. M.; Kok, F.J.; van Staveren, W.A.; Dullemeijer, C.; OldeRikkert, M.G.M.; Beekman, A. T.F.; de Groot, C. P.G.M. (August 2008). “Effect of fish oil on cognitive performance in older subjects”. Neurology 71 (6): 430–438. doi:10.1212/01.wnl.0000324268.45138.86. PMID 18678826.
  12. Levy, Susan E.; Hyman, Susan L. (2005). “Novel treatments for autistic spectrum disorders”. Ment Retard Dev Disabil Res Rev 11 (2): 131–142. doi:10.1002/mrdd.20062. PMID 15977319.
  13. Richardson, Alexandra J. (2006). “Omega-3 fatty acids in ADHD and related neurodevelopmental disorders”. Int Rev Psychiatry 18 (2): 155–172. doi:10.1080/09540260600583031. PMID 16777670.
  14. 14. Green, VA; Pituch KA, Itchon J, Choi A, O’Reilly M, Sigafoos J (2006). “Internet survey of treatments used by parents of children with autism”. Res Dev Disabil 27 (1): 70–84. doi:10.1016/j.ridd.2004.12.002. PMID 15919178.
  15. Sinn, Natalie; Bryan, Janet (April 2007). “Effect of supplementation with polyunsaturated fatty acids and micronutrients on learning and behavior problems associated with child ADHD”. J Dev Behav Pediatrics 28 (2): 82–91. doi:10.1097/01.DBP.0000267558.88457.a5. PMID 17435458.
  16. Richardson, Alexandra J.; Montgomery, Paul (2005). “The Oxford-Durham study: a randomized, controlled trial of dietary supplementation with fatty acids in children with developmental coordination disorder”. Pediatrics 115 (5): 1360–1366. doi:10.1542/peds.2004-2164. PMID 15867048.
  17. Johnson M, Ostlund S, Fransson G, Kadesjö B, Gillberg C. (30 April 2008). “Omega-3/Omega-6 Fatty Acids for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial in Children and Adolescents.”. J Atten Disord 12 (5): 394–401. doi:10.1177/1087054708316261. PMID 18448859.
  18. Bent, Stephen; Bertoglio, Kiah; Hendren, Robert L. (March 2009). “Omega-3 fatty acids for autistic spectrum disorder: a systematic review”. J Autism Dev Disord 39 (8): 1145–54. doi:10.1007/s10803-009-0724-5. PMID 19333748.
  19. Amminger, G. Paul; et al. (2007). “Omega-3 fatty acids supplementation in children with autism: a double-blind randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study”. Biol Psychiatry 61 (4): 551–553. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2006.05.007. PMID 16920077.
  20. Gilbert, Donald L. (2008). “Regarding ‘omega-3 fatty acids supplementation in children with autism: a double-blind randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study'”. Biol Psychiatry 63 (2): e13. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2007.03.028. PMID 17555722. Author reply: Amminger, G. Paul; Harrigan, Susan M. (February 2008). “Reply”. Biol Psychiatry 63(2): e15. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2007.04.002.
  21. 21. Puri, Basant K. (2006). “High-resolution magnetic resonance imaging sinc-interpolation-based subvoxel registration and semi-automated quantitative lateral ventricular morphology employing threshold computation and binary image creation in the study of fatty acid interventions in schizophrenia, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome and Huntington’s disease”. Int Rev Psychiatry 18 (2): 149–154. doi:10.1080/09540260600583015. PMID 16777669.
  22. Calabrese, J.R.; Rapport, D.J.; Shelton, M.D. (1999). “Fish oils and bipolar disorder: A promising but untested treatment”. Arch Gen Psychiatry 56 (5): 413–414; discussion 415–416. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.56.5.413. PMID 10232295.
  23. Stoll, A.L.; et al. (1999). “Omega 3 fatty acids in bipolar disorder: A preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled trial”. Arch Gen Psychiatry 56 (5): 407–412. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.56.5.407. PMID 10232294.
  24. Nemets, H.; Nemets, B.; Apter, A.; Bracha, Z.; Belmaker, R.H. (2006). “Omega-3 treatment of childhood depression: A controlled, double-blind pilot study”. Am J Psychiatry 163 (6): 1098–1100. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.163.6.1098. PMID 16741212.
  25. Nemets, H.; Nemets, B.; Apter, A.; Bracha, Z.; Belmaker, R.H. (2006). “Omega-3 treatment of childhood depression: A controlled, double-blind pilot study”. Am J Psychiatry 163 (6): 1098–1100. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.163.6.1098. PMID 16741212.
  26. Huan, M.; et al. (2004). “Suicide attempt and n−3 fatty acid levels in red blood cells: a case control study in China”. Biol Psychiatry 56 (7): 490–496. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2004.06.028. PMID 15450784.
  27. Lin, Pao-Yen; Kuan-Pin Su (July 2007). “A Meta-Analytic Review of Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trials of Antidepressant Efficacy of Omega-3 Fatty Acids”. J Clin Psychiatry 68 (7): 1056–1061. doi:10.4088/JCP.v68n0712. PMID 17685742.
  28. Mischoulon D, Papakostas GI, Dording CM, et al. “A double-blind, randomized controlled trial of ethyl-eicosapentaenoate for major depressive disorder.” J Clin Psychiatry. 25 August 2009.

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