Harvard Health Letter

Omega-3s for anxiety?

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Omega-3 fatty acid supplements may help ease anxiety symptoms in people diagnosed with a range of physical and mental health problems, according to a review published in the Sept. 14, 2018, JAMA Network Open. The report pooled findings from 19 different studies and included 1,200 people. Most of the studies compared omega-3 supplements to a placebo. Taken together, the studies included people with a range of health problems, including heart attacks, attention deficit disorder, substance abuse, depression, and Parkinsonís disease, as well as some groups without any specific clinical diagnosis. Researchers found that people who took high doses of omega-3s (up to 2,000 mg a day) seemed to have the most reduction in anxiety symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are usually derived from fish oil, have a number of biological effects in the body. Brain membranes contain a high proportion of these fats, and human studies suggest that a lack of omega-3s in the brain may induce various behavioral and psychiatric disorders. For now, itís too soon to recommend high-dose omega-3 supplements for treating anxiety. Larger trials testing the supplements (both alone and combined with standard treatments) are needed, the study authors say.

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