The role of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in mental disorders
Keywords:Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, brain, mental health, psychiatric disorders
AbstractWhile the role of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in physical health is well established, it is becoming increasingly evident that they are also important for mental health. A decrease in the intake of omega-3 PUFAs in Western countries over recent decades may have affected the prevalence of mental disorders. Omega-3 PUFAs play fundamental roles in the development, functioning and aging of the brain. In humans, dietary deficiencies of omega-3 PUFAs, such as docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid, have been associated with an increased risk of various mental disorders. However, the findings of randomised clinical trials investigating therapeutic effects of omega-3 PUFAs in psychiatric disorders are inconclusive, which limits their use in clinical practice. High-quality clinical trials need to be conducted in order to assess the efficacy of omega-3 PUFAs in the prevention and treatment of mental disorders. Unwanted side effects of omega-3 PUFA supplementation should be considered. These may become apparent many years after administration and therefore elude detection.