For this study, 122 patients with major depression and coronary heart disease took 50 milligrams of Zoloft a day, then were randomized to receive either 2 grams a day of omega-3 acid ethyl esters or a corn-oil placebo capsule.
There was no difference in depression scores before and after 10 weeks of treatment, the researchers found.
The study authors noted that tweaking any of the variables in the study -- amount of Zoloft, dose of fish oil, form of fish oil or duration of treatment -- might yield more positive results.
In general, the effects of antidepressants in people with both depression and heart problems are the same as in a normal "healthy" population, Carney said.
"The problem, from our point of view, is that that's just not good enough," he added. "It's definitely better than placebo, better than doing nothing. We're trying to find a treatment or combination of treatments that's going to significantly improve the depression outcome."
Had this study turned out more positively, the next step would have been to see if improvements in depression translate into improvements in heart outcomes.
As it is, scientists are back to the drawing board.
"We're still exploring other possibilities," Carney said.
That includes an increased dose of omega-3, lengthening the study and identifying a subset of patients for whom this protocol might be more effective than antidepressants alone.
But it's not time to stop taking fish oil capsules yet, one expert said.
"The American Heart Association still does have recommendations based on the data we do have," said Dr. John Erwin III, professor of internal medicine at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, and senior staff cardiologist with Scott & White Hospital in Temple.
"We also use fish oil to reduce triglyceride levels and it's very effective in that use. I wouldn'
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