There’s growing interest in the potential effect of omega-3 fatty acids on depression and subsequent afflictions such as heart disease.

Here’s a study using the granddaddy of omega-3 formulations — cod-liver oil.

First, the details.

  • The medical recorders from more than 21,000 Norwegian adults aged 40-49 and 70-74 years were studied.
  • All had symptoms of depression and anxiety.

And, the results.

  • 9% of these people took cod-liver oil daily.
  • The prevalence of depressive symptoms in those who used cod-liver oil daily was 2.5%.
  • The prevalence was 3.8% in the rest of the population, a significant difference.
  • The results were still significant after accounting for the influence of age, gender, smoking habits, coffee consumption, alcohol consumption, physical activity, and education.
  • In the younger group, the prevalence of high levels of depressive symptoms decreased significantly as the duration of cod-liver oil use became prolonged from 0 to 12 months.
  • These data were not available in the older group.

The bottom line?
At first, the different between 2.5% and 3.8% might appear small, but it’s 30%.

It’s unclear whether the benefits in this study were due to a direct anti-depressant effect of cod-liver oil, or because of its cardiovascular benefits. After all, healthy people tend to be less depressed.

Regardless, it’s another positive study for omega-3 fatty acids and your grandma’s pharmacopeia.

6/18/07 18:08 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.