Depression is known to cause coronary heart disease in healthy patients. In patients with existing coronary heart disease, depression could cause adverse cardiovascular outcomes. A study carried out jointly by the scientists from NIH, Stanford, UCSF and Emery University showed that lower levels of omega–3 fatty acids in diet not only increase coronary heart disease risk, but may also be involved in the pathophysiology of depression.
The investigators measured red blood cell levels of two omega–3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and assessed depressive symptoms in a cross-sectional study of 987 adults with coronary heart disease. Omega –3 fatty acids were blindly measured in fasting venous blood samples. Specifically, the fatty acid composition of red blood cell membranes was measured. Red blood cell levels of EPA and DHA are presented as a percentage composition of total fatty acids.
The investigators assessed current depression using the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire. They evaluated the association between omega –3 fatty acid levels and depressive symptoms. The investigators also examined the association of omega–3 fatty acids with depression.
The prevalence of depression ranged from 23% in participants with less than 3.1% EPA + DHA in total blood fatty acids to 13% in participants with more than 4.3% EPA + DHA in total blood fatty acids. Each unit decrease in EPA + DHA was inversely associated with depressive symptoms, and these associations persisted after adjustment for age, sex and race. Similarly, each unit decrease in EPA + DHA was associated with significantly greater odds of depression.
This study extends the existing literature by finding a strong association between low omega–3 fatty acids and depression in outpatients with stable coronary hear disease. Therefore, supplementing DHA+EPA in a low omega-3 diet may help with managing both the progression and the physiological complications of coronary heart disease.
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Ali et al. Association between Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Depressive Symptoms among Patients with Established Coronary Artery Disease: Data from the Heart and Soul Study. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics
, 2009; 78 (2): 125 DOI: 10.1159/000203118
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