Taking fish oil may affect mood swings and depression, but this could actually provide positive effects. People respond differently to foods and may experience different responses. In some cases, however, fish oil has been shown to stabilize moods and relieve depression. Major or prolonged depression and mood disorders require treatment that includes therapy or medication. Taking fish oil or other dietary remedies may help, but only with the approval and under the supervision of a mental health professional.
Studies on fish oil effectiveness for depression and bipolar disorder have been mixed, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Bipolar disorder involves mood swings from depressive periods to episodes of manic behavior. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat that may be beneficial for other conditions, including heart disease. Research has shown some improvement for depression and bipolar patients who take omega-3 in addition to traditional treatment. Other studies show no benefit.
A study at Harvard Medical School indicates short-term improvement for patients with bipolar disorder. During a four-month period, 30 bipolar patients were given either omega-3 fatty acids or placebo along with normal treatment. The subjects taking the omega-3s had a longer period of mood stabilization than the control group. An eight-week study involving 28 patients with major depression found that those taking omega-3s in addition to usual treatment had significantly decreased depression scores compared to those taking placebo and the usual treatment, according to researchers at China Medical College Hospital.
Major depression involves long periods of sadness, feelings of emptiness or hopelessness, poor concentration, lack of energy, inability to sleep or even suicidal tendencies. Bipolar patients may exhibit periods of these symptoms and also experience periods of manic behavior, which includes overexcitement and an outgoing mood. During this phase they may also appear agitated or irritable, talk very fast about different topics, become restless or behave impulsively in matters of pleasure or finances. Only a mental health professional can diagnose and treat depression and bipolar disorder. See your doctor if you experience these symptoms.
Fish Oil Sources
Fish oil concentrates in the brain and may help brain memory, mental function and behavior, the University of Maryland notes. Oily fish containing omega-3 fatty acids include tuna, mackerel, salmon, sardines, herring, trout and halibut. People who do not eat enough fish can take fish oil supplements. Many manufacturers make fish oil supplements from fish rich in omega-3s. Fish oil and supplements may have side effects for some people and can also interact with medication. Check with your doctor if you are undergoing treatment.
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Omega-3 fatty acids; June 2009
- "Archives of General Psychiatry"; Omega 3 Fatty Acids in Bipolar Disorder; Stoll AL, et al.; May 1999
- "European Neuropsychopharmacol"; Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Major Depressive Disorder; Su KP, et al.; August 2003
- MedlinePlus; Fish oil; November 2010