The People's Perspective on Medicine

Will Fish Oil Supplements Ease Your Anxiety?

A systematic review of research shows that high-dose omega-3 fatty acid supplements may help ease your anxiety.
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Fish oil has gotten a lot of bad press lately. After a decade or two of enthusiasm for its benefits in preventing heart disease, arthritis and dry eyes, scientists concluded that there is little or no evidence for its effectiveness in these conditions. (See these stories on heart disease and dry eyes.) On the other hand, fish oil just might help ease your anxiety.

Could Supplements Really Ease Your Anxiety?

A new meta-analysis of 19 clinical trials involving more than 2,000 participants suggests that omega-3 fatty acid supplements help reduce the severity of anxiety (JAMA Network Open, Sept. 14, 2018). These findings held up in both placebo-controlled and non-placebo-controlled trials.

The researchers concluded that despite variations in how the studies were set up,

“the main finding of this meta-analysis was that omega-3 PUFAs were associated with significant reduction in anxiety symptoms compared with controls; this effect persisted vs placebo controls.”

How Much Fish Oil Does It Take to Ease Your Anxiety?

The doses that appeared most effective were 2,000 mg per day or higher, with less than 60 percent EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). The investigators point out that their previous research showed that people with low levels of omega-3 fatty acids are more prone to anxiety. Genetic variations that affect these levels also appear linked to anxiety symptoms. They suggest that the high levels of these fatty acids in brain cell membranes might help explain their importance. Like most scientists, they call for larger, well-controlled trials of high-dose omega-3 supplements to clarify the psychological benefits.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Where can I buy 2,000 mg per day capsules with less than 60 percent EPA?

I’m finding myself resisting believing anything about any supplement these days. I’m remembering all the glowing reports a few years ago about what-all fish oil was supposed to do — each of those benefits “well documented” and “backed by studies” — and now it’s mainly debunked? What’s to prevent the same thing happening re the anxiety relief? That said, I do use krill oil every day, hoping it’ll help just because I’m willing it to.

I do have anxiety, but I have found Omega-3s in a dosage of 1000mg twice a day work as well to control osteoarthritis pain as naproxen. I no longer take any NSAIDs regularly (just an occasional single ibuprofen pill before bed if I’ve had a physically exhausting day that might have activated more pain than usual). I discovered the fish oil pain connection when I ran out of it and didn’t take it for a week–all my joint pain came back. It took several weeks of taking it again before it worked, but my pain eventually disappeared again.

I have to use flaxseed oil. Fish oil products upset my stomach.

Flaxseed oil very definitely does help my memory functions, but I am not sure if it helps with my anxiety or depression.

I’ve used fish oils for years. Stopped it months ago. Just ordered more. My anxiety is up. Need to get back on it

What does your analysis say about the use for dementia?

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