Efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids in mood disorders - A systematic review and metaanalysis

Nina V. Kraguljac, Victor M. Montori, Mani Pavuluri, High S. Chai, Brian S. Wilson, Sencan S. Unal

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Objectives: Existing efficacy trials of Omega-3 (w-3) fatty acids in mood disorders have yielded inconsistent results. The current paper is an effort to provide a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate efficacy of w-3 fatty acids in treatment of mood disorders. Design: We searched Medline, Embase, PsychInfo, and the Cochrane Controlled Trials registry up to June 2008 for randomized trials investigating efficacy of w-3 fatty acids in mood disorders. We conducted random effects meta-analyses. We used the I 2 statistic to quantify between-study inconsistency, and conducted pre-specified subgroup analyses to explore potential explanations for inconsistency. Observations: We included 21 trials in our systematic review and found 13 trials to be eligible for meta-analysis.The pooled standardized mean difference in depressed mood states (n = 554 in 12 trials) was 20.47 (95% CI: -0 . 92 , -0 . 02 ; I 2 = 82.7; p = 0.07) and in manic mood states (n = 126 in 4 trials) was 0.22 (95% CI: -0.21, 0.65; I 2 = 40.5; p = 0.31). We did not identify any treatment-subgroup interaction across forms of w-3 fatty acids preparations (P = 0.99) or patient diagnosis (bipolar vs. unipolar depressive disorder; P = 0.96); there was a significant correlation between w-3 fatty acids dose and treatment effect on depressive symptoms (r = 0.5, p = 0.04), but not on manic symptoms (P = 0.3). Conclusions: The available evidence suggests that w-3 fatty acids are a potential treatment of depressive disorders, but not mania.The unexplained between-study inconsistency and imprecision of the pooled estimates mitigate this suggestion. Large randomized placebo-controlled trials are needed to better estimate the value of this intervention for patients with depression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-54
Number of pages16
JournalPsychopharmacology bulletin
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2009


  • Bipolar disorder
  • DHA
  • Depression
  • EPA
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Mania
  • Meta-analysis
  • Omega-3 (fatty acids)
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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