An international review published in the BMJ on 28 April, 2016, suggests that nutritional supplements including omega-3 fish oil were found to boost the effects of antidepressants when taken in combination with antidepressant medications for the people suffering from clinical depression. The study was also published in the American Journal of Psychiatry this Tuesday.

The study conducted by the researchers from University of Melbourne and Harvard reviewed 40 different clinical trials lasting 21 days with a sample size of 63 and at least 10 per arm. The study used nutrient supplements (nutraceuticals) to treat clinical depression and considered the use of vitamins alongside three common antidepressants, namely serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and tricyclic antidepressants.

The findings of eight clinical trials worldwide suggested the fish oil supplements appear to help effectively fight depression in people already on antidepressant medication.

The research team also found satisfactory results for characterizing methylfolate (bioactive form of folate), S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), and vitamin D, as a mood augmenting therapy when taken with antidepressants. However, mixed results were reported for zinc, vitamin C and tryptophan (an amino acid). Moreover, folic acid didn’t work particularly well, nor did inositol.

The lead author of the study discussed the previously identified role of omega-3 supplements in improving mood and brain health in general. He brought it to the attention that this is probably the first time that an analysis has looked into the usage of these supplements in combination with antidepressant medication.

According to BMJ News, the study’s lead author, Jerome Sarris, from the University of Melbourne in Australia, while pointing towards the beneficial effects of adjunctive nutraceuticals, said that the main outcome of the study was the discovery about symbiotic association of the omega-3 fish oil supplementation in combination with antidepressants, proved by the analysis done on the depressed subjects who took part in different trials.

While directing towards the efficacy of the study performed by them, Sarris added, “Many studies have shown that omega-3s are good for general brain health and improving mood, but this is the first analysis of studies that looks at using them in combination with antidepressant drugs.”

He also shed light on one of the major concerns regarding acceptability of these supplements and said that previously doctors have been reluctant to prescribe dietary supplements in combination with antidepressants due to a lack of scientific evidence and safety concerns. He made it clear that there are no side effects associated with the combination of the two therapies.

Furthermore, while authenticating the use of the nutraceuticals that have been backed up by scientific evidence, the author stated, “The difference for patients taking both antidepressants and omega-3, compared with a placebo, was highly significant. This is an exciting finding because here we have a safe, evidence based approach that could be considered a mainstream treatment.”

However, the researchers paid emphasis on consulting a professional healthcare provider before practically self-medicating these nutraceuticals as these supplements differ in quality due to various brands involved in the manufacturing of the products. He also specified that the researchers neither recommend nor encourage buying ‘buckets of supplements’ for misapplication of these nutraceuticals at any cost instead of seeking advice from the medical practitioners.

Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council has funded another study for investigating a combination of nUse Of Fish Oil With Antidepressants Show Effective Resultsutritional supplements for the treatment of clinical depression. This step was taken following the study under consideration as many of the studies reviewed were small and there was considerable heterogeneity amongst them, along with differences in the medications used.

According to US National Library of Medicine, an American psychiatrist working at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, NY, shared his viewpoint on the current study by notifying that this research work can serve as a useful tool for treating the depressed individuals who do not show positive results after one or two trials of medication and added, “This may enhance the recovery of individuals who do not respond to antidepressants alone.”

The researchers believe that their research findings have a real potential of improving the health of individuals who do not show effective results with antidepressant drugs, including millions of people in Australia and hundreds of millions worldwide currently taking antidepressants.

According to datasets compiled by OECD report, titled “Health at a Glance 2015”, Iceland topped the list of the countries titled as the world’s biggest consumers of antidepressants, including 118 out of every 1,000 individuals consuming antidepressants on a regular basis, while Australia secured second position with 96 out of every 1,000 people whereas Portugal was placed on third position with 88 per 1,000 depressed individuals.

A research study analyzing the effects of omega-3 fatty acids in ‘Major Depressive Disorder’ was also published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in 2009.