A small preliminary study suggests that use of omega-3 fatty acids for major depressive disorder and hot flushes in women during the menopausal transition is worth pursuing.
Dr Marlene P. Freeman said: "We are excited about the possibility of using a non-hormonal low-risk intervention to treat mood and related symptoms associated with the menopausal transition."
She added, "The widespread use of nutritional and other complementary and alternative treatments necessitates rigorous study of these interventions to make sure that individuals receive appropriate and safe medical care."
In a November 27th online paper in Menopause, Dr Freeman of Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, and colleagues note that they studied 20 women. Following a single-blind placebo lead-in, the patients received 3 open-label omega-3 fatty acid capsules daily (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, 2 g).
All but one patient completed the 8-week study. The Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) score fell from 24.2 at baseline to 10.7. In all, 70% of women showed a MADRS score reduction of at least 50%. In total, 45% were deemed to be in remission with a final MADRS score of 7 or less.
During the trial
Both eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid levels rose during the trial and responders had significantly lower pretreatment docosahexaenoic acid levels than non-responders.
15 of the women (75%) had experienced hot flashes at baseline. Their 24-hour hot flush scores fell from a mean of 9.0 to 2.5 at the end of treatment. Women who showed an improvement in depression were more likely to experience hot flush reduction.
Given the potential risks of hormone therapy and anti-depressives, the researchers conclude that "larger controlled trials are justified to more definitively assess the role of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of major depressive disorder in women during the menopausal transition." (Reuters Health/ November 2010)