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Omega-3 Fatty Acids Might Curb Depression in Heart Patients

Study found low levels in bloodstream correlated with increased risk

THURSDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests a relationship between low levels of omega-3 fatty acids and an increased risk of depression in heart patients.

The study, reported online in the Journal of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, looked at 987 adults with coronary heart disease. Among those with the lowest levels of omega-3 fatty acids, 23 percent suffered from depression. But among those with the highest levels of the fatty acid in their blood, only 13 percent were diagnosed with depressive symptoms.

The findings of this study support the previously reported association between low levels of omega-3 fatty acids and depression in non-hospitalized patients with stable coronary heart disease, according to a news release from the journal. The types of omega-3 measured in the study were docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid, and the patients' age, sex and race was factored in, the study authors noted.

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in cold water fish, various nuts and other foods, as well as in supplements. Over the years, numerous studies have suggested significant health benefits in consuming omega-3, such as improved cardiac health, reduced cancer risk and improved immune function, according to information from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

In the new study, led by researchers at the University of California San Francisco, each unit decrease or increase in omega-3 was reflected in a corresponding rise or lowering of depressive symptoms.

Though data strongly suggest an association, the researchers noted that they cannot make a definitive link until they study the connection in a larger and more diverse population. In addition, more research needs to be done to determine how a patient's education and socioeconomic status impacts the link between omega-3 levels and depression, the researchers concluded.

More information

Learn more about omega-3 fatty acids at the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

-- Peter West

SOURCE: Journal of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, news release, June 2009

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