Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Associated With Reduction in Anxiety Symptoms

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Researchers found that people receiving treatment with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids had a reduction in anxiety symptoms compared with those not receiving treatment.

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) may be associated with reduced symptoms of anxiety in adults, according to results of a study published in JAMA Network Open.

In this systematic review and meta-analysis, researchers searched major databases for clinical trials studying the anxiolytic effect of omega-3 PUFAs. Both placebo-controlled and non-placebo study designs were included in the review. After applying the inclusion criteria, the investigators found 19 applicable studies from which data were extracted and analyzed. The 19 studies included a total of 1203 participants with a mean age of 43.7 years and mean omega-3 dosage of 1605.7 mg/day. Several anxiety scales were used to measure anxiety symptoms of study participants.

In terms of efficacy, researchers found that those receiving treatment with omega-3 PUFAs had a reduction in anxiety symptoms compared with those not receiving treatment (Hedges g 0.374; 95% CI, 0.081-0.666; P =.01). In addition, the investigators found that patients treated in clinical conditions exhibited a stronger association than those treated in subclinical conditions (P =.03).

With respect to dosage, the anti-anxiety effects of omega-3 PUFAs were significantly better in groups given higher doses (≥2000 mg/day) compared with lower doses (<2000 mg/day) (P =.02).

Limitations of this review included the broad inclusion criteria and significant heterogeneity among the included studies.

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“Omega-3 PUFAs might help reduce the symptoms of clinical anxiety. Further well-designed studies are needed in populations in whom anxiety is the main symptom,” the researchers wrote.

Disclosures: Dr Su reported grants from the Ministry of Science and Technology, the National Health Research Institutes, and the China Medical University during the conduct of the study. Dr Matsuoka reported receiving donations from Morinaga Milk Industry Co, Ltd outside the submitted work. No other disclosures were reported.


Su K-P, Tseng P-Y, Lin P-Y, et al. Association of use of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids with changes in severity of anxiety symptoms: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Network Open. 2018;1(5):e182327.