New research has found that increasing fatty fish intake may be a way to improve the response rate among depressed patients who have not found antidepressants to be beneficial.

Said lead researcher Roel Mocking, “we were looking for biological alterations that could explain depression and antidepressant non-response, so we combined two apparently unrelated measures: metabolism of fatty acids and stress hormone regulation. Interestingly, we saw that depressed patients had an altered metabolism of fatty acids, and that this changed metabolism was regulated in a different way by stress hormones.”

Taking measurements of fatty acid and cortisol levels throughout the trial, the researchers found that the depressed patients who did not respond to the antidepressants tended to have abnormal fatty acid metabolism.

The patients who ate fatty fish at least once a week had a 75% chance of responding to antidepressants. The patients who never ate fatty fish had only a 23% chance of responding to them.

“This means that the alterations in fatty acid metabolism (and their relationship with stress hormone regulation) were associated with future antidepressant response,” says Mocking.

He adds, “importantly, this association was associated with eating fatty fish, which is an important dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids. These findings suggest that measures of fatty acid metabolism, and their association with stress hormone regulation, might be of use in the clinic as an early indicator of future antidepressant response. Moreover, fatty acid metabolism could be influenced by eating fish, which may be a way to improve antidepressant response rates.”

Professor Guy Goodwin, president of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology said of the results, “understanding non-response to treatment with SSRIs remains an important known unknown. There is already an intriguing association between eating fish and general health. The present study, while preliminary, takes the story into the realm of depression. Larger scale definitive studies will be of considerable interest.” 10/20/14

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