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Tuesday, 16 October 2018
A recently published study concludes that omega-3 oil supplements might reduce symptoms of anxiety for some people.
Omega-3 may be a safe, cost-effective intervention for anxiety.
Pharmaceutical interventions such as serotonin uptake inhibitors can treat anxiety.
However, people with anxiety disorders are often concerned about side effects and dependence.
Fish oils and anxiety
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are present in fish oils. Over the years, researchers have ascribed a wide range of health benefits to them, but not all are supported by evidence.
In recent years, some scientists have tested omega-3's potential to help in the treatment of psychiatric conditions, including mood and anxiety disorders.
Studies investigating the anti-anxiety effects of omega-3 PUFAs in animal models have seen some success; for instance, a study in rats found that a diet rich in a PUFA called eicosapentaenoic acid reduced anxiety-like behaviors.
In humans, research has shown a relationship between PUFA levels and anxiety. For instance, one study found that people with anxiety disorders have lower levels of circulating omega-3 PUFAs.
These studies and others, though, have been limited by their small size. To rectify this, researchers recently carried out the first systematic review on this topic.
The researchers took data from 19 clinical trials including a total of 1,203 participants. Their findings were published in the JAMA Network Open journal. After analysis, their findings supported their initial theory. Although the studies varied significantly in the type of participants that were involved and the ways that anxiety was measured, they saw a significant reduction in anxiety in the groups treated with omega-3s compared with the placebo groups.
Most of the studies demonstrated a positive effect of omega-3 PUFAs on anxiety, even though not all effect sizes were significant. However, when the data were pooled, the combined effect was statistically significant.
Interestingly, the positive effects of omega-3s were particularly pronounced for people who had clinical diagnoses of psychiatric conditions.
More work is now needed
Before omega-3s are brought into wider use, the authors suggest that more large-scale studies will be needed. Exactly how they these fatty acids might impart their beneficial effects is another question that will need to be answered.
More research is sure to follow. If an intervention as simple as omega-3 supplementation could reduce levels of anxiety, it would have the potential to ease suffering for a great many people.
Source: Medical News Today, By Tim Newman