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Fish Oil: A Natural Alternative to Antidepressants?


Fish Oil: A Natural Alternative to Antidepressants?

As antidepressant use continues to unnecessarily skyrocket, studies show fish oil may be just as effective at lifting the cloud of depression that haunts so many.

About 15 million U.S. adults suffer from major depression.[1] But researchers have found that people with high blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids are less likely to report feeling depressed than people with low levels.

To many who have followed the research on fish oil, this comes as no surprise. Researchers have known for some time that those who up their intake of essential fatty acids not only respond better to antidepressant therapy, but also tend to experience balanced mood, and are less likely to try to commit suicide.

EPA, one of the essential Omega-3 fatty acids, produces serotonin, the “happy” neurotransmitter and DHA creates healthy nerve cell membranes to keep neurons functioning properly. A recent study found that participants’ depression scores were inversely correlated with their omega-3 levels. That is, the higher one’s blood levels of omega-3s, the lower his or her depression risk.[2] And this is just one of many studies that show a link between the intake of fish oil and depression.

So if there is such a wealth of research supporting fish oil as a promising antidepressant alternative, why do so many still turn to dangerous prescription medications before exploring other options known to help manage depression?

Some experts believe it’s because fish oil takes longer to “kick in” than conventional solutions.

“You won’t see as immediate a result as you will some other supplements,” says Live in the Now Medical Editor Kevin Passero, N.D., of Bethesda, MD. “It can take 8 to 12 months to be really effective. But that doesn’t discount how valuable it really is.” It’s also critical to take a supplement that has a high amount of DHA in it compared to other fish oils. (A ratio of 2:1 of EPA to DHA is acceptable.)

Dosage could be another deterrent when it comes to acknowledging fish oil as a potential drug alternative. The amount used in studies is rather inconsistent. Some studies have found success with as little as 1,400 mg/day while others have used up to 9,000 mg/day to treat depression.

It must be noted, however, that although fish oil supplementation can work by itself for some people, it can also be used to safely help antidepressants work better. It gets incorporated into cell membranes, making them more fluid and responsive to the neurotransmitters that latch onto the cells’ receptor sites.

Fish Oil Isn’t the Only All-Natural Alternative to Common Prescription Drugs

In a day when physicians tend to skip the small talk and head straight for the prescription paper, it’s good to know that several other natural options have been found to be just as, if not more, effective than conventional solutions.

Read more about Natural Alternatives to 10 of the Most Common Drugs.


[1] Kessler RC, et al. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005 Jun;62(6):617-27.
[2] Bigornia SL, et al. J Nutr. 2016 Apr 1;146(4):758-66.

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