From Our 2009 Archives

Omega-3s No Help for Depression?

Heart Patients Get No Antidepressant Boost From Omega-3 Supplements

By Daniel J. DeNoon
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 20, 2009 -- Depressed heart patients don't get extra help from omega-3 fatty acids when they take the supplements along with an antidepressant drug, a clinical trial shows.

Heart patients are often prescribed omega-3 supplements. There's evidence that the supplements can make antidepressants significantly more effective, although not every study has detected this effect.

To see what's going on, Washington University researcher Robert M. Carney, PhD, and colleagues enrolled 122 patients with heart disease and clinical depression in a clinical trial. None of the patients was taking either antidepressants or omega-3 supplements at the time.

All the patients received the antidepressant Zoloft at a dose of 50 milligrams per day, with a two-week run-in period to allow the drug to take effect. Half also got two Lovaza capsules, which together contain about 2 grams of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. The other half of the patients got placebo capsules containing corn oil.

People in both groups became less depressed. There was no sign that those taking omega-3 supplements got better or improved faster than those taking placebo pills.

"Although some trials of omega-3 for depression have been strongly positive, others -- including the present study -- have failed to demonstrate a benefit," Carney and colleagues conclude.

The positive results from some studies suggest to the researchers that there may be a subgroup of heart patients that may benefit from the combination treatment. The researchers are analyzing their data to see whether they can identify such a group.

Carney and colleagues report their findings in the Oct. 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; Pfizer supplied the Zoloft and GlaxoSmithKline supplied the Lovaza.

SOURCES: Carney, R.M. Journal of the American Medical Association, Oct. 21, 2009; vol 302: pp 1651-1657.

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