Omega-3 supplements may help reduce anxiety symptoms, a review of studies has concluded.
The analysis, in JAMA Network Open, concluded that people with clinically diagnosed anxiety disorders who took large doses of the supplement — up to 2,000 milligrams a day — benefited most.
Researchers used data from 16 studies that compared omega-3 fatty acid supplements with placebo and three that did not use a placebo. Over all, omega-3 supplements were associated with significant relief from anxiety symptoms, but some groups benefited more than others.
Omega-3 supplements did not ease anxiety levels in those without a clinical diagnosis of an anxiety disorder, on in adolescents under 18. And they were more strongly associated with reduced symptoms when the balance of two types of fatty acids in the supplement, EPA and DHA, was less than 60 percent EPA.
The senior author, Dr. Yutaka Matsuoka, chief of health care research at the National Cancer Center in Japan, said that supplements may not be necessary. “Eating fatty fish that includes EPA and DHA is more natural. I recommend mackerel, Pacific saury, sardines, tuna or salmon.”
In any case, he said, omega-3 is not a first-line treatment for anxiety, or a substitute for other evidence-based therapies. “But for patients who are not responsive to psychotherapies, omega-3 might be a promising alternative.”
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