If you purchase via links on our site, we may receive commissions. However, our experts carefully research and evaluate each product or service, ensuring it meets our quality standards.

Omega-3s May Cut the Risk of Post-COVID Depression

A new study suggests that taking omega-3 may help to reduce the risk of developing post-COVID psychiatric conditions. However, an expert warns that the supplements alone should not replace antidepressants.

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), or omega-3s, perform important functions in the body, such as supporting the health of cardiovascular and endocrine systems. Because the body cannot produce omega-3s on its own, it is essential to get them from food sources and supplements.

Existing clinical guidelines recommend the use of omega-3s for various psychiatric disorders due to their anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective characteristics.

A new study that appeared in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity examined the link between omega-3 supplements and post-COVID psychiatric conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia up to a year after COVID-19 diagnosis.

The researchers looked at the data of 33,908 patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19 between March 2020 and July 2022 and did not take antiviral medications.

The study found that the omega-3 group — patients taking omega-3 fatty acids six months before the COVID-19 diagnosis — had a 20% lower risk of developing psychiatric conditions than those who did not take supplements.

Specifically, they were at a 17% lower risk for developing depression, 17% for anxiety, and 32% for insomnia. Moreover, the omega-3 group was at a lower risk of cough and muscle pain.

However, the risk of these conditions was only reduced in individuals between 18 and 59 years old and those with less than two doses of the vaccine.

The two groups had no difference in the risk for other COVID-19-related conditions.

Save 25% buying 4-month supply!
Performance Labs Omega 3 comm block 2

Omega-3s reduce inflammation

Omega-3s get incorporated into the membranes of nerve cells, and some animal and petri dish evidence suggests that this can affect neurotransmitter levels for the better, says Gregory Lopez, PharmD, a researcher, and editor-in-chief for Examine.com, an online encyclopedia covering health, nutrition, and supplementation.

Because neurotransmitters are a way nerve cells communicate with each other, some play a role in anxiety and depression. Thus, at least in theory, omega-3s could help depression and anxiety by helping achieve a healthier neurotransmitter balance.

Lopez tells Healthnews, “Omega-3s may also help reduce aspects of inflammation, both in the brain and the body as a whole. Inflammation is associated with both depression and anxiety, so lowering inflammation could theoretically lower anxiety and depression symptoms.”

Moreover, omega-3s can boost a growth factor called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), lower levels of which correlate with higher anxiety and depression.

“While all this seems promising in theory, I don’t think it’s wise to base health decisions on theory alone. A lot of treatments that sound like they could work based on mechanistic reasoning turned out not to work in the real world. And in the case of omega-3s, the real-world evidence is mildly promising in my opinion, but ultimately mixed,” Lopez says.

Omega-3 may have a small but positive effect on depression but not anxiety. Meanwhile, antidepressants can be used for both of these conditions.

But even if fish oil may have some benefits for depression, I don’t think they work as well as antidepressants; at least once you find a specific antidepressant that works for you. Unfortunately, finding the right antidepressant often takes quite a bit of trial and error.

Gregory Lopez, PharmD

He says that modest evidence suggests that combining omega-3s with an antidepressant may provide a more significant benefit than the medication alone. Therefore, it may be worth talking with your doctor about adding omega-3s to the treatment.

1 in 7 Americans are affected

At least 14% of Americans have had long COVID by the end of 2022. The World Health Organization defines the condition as the continuation or development of new symptoms three months after the initial SARS-CoV-2 infection if they last for at least two months with no other explanation.

Fatigue, shortness of breath, and cognitive dysfunction are the most common signs of long COVID-19, although the condition is linked to over 200 different symptoms that impact daily functioning.

While supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and probiotics can play a role in strengthening the immune system and improving general health, they shouldn't be the only reliable form of long COVID treatment.

Leave a reply

Your email will not be published. All fields are required.