Document Type


Date of Original Version



Pharmacy Practice


Purpose: This article will summarize the current evidence on the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on prevention and treatment of mental illness. Background: Omega-3 fatty acids are involved in many physiologic processes. Since they cannot be made de novo in the body, they are considered essential nutrients. As the Western diet evolved, dietary intake of fatty acids has shifted to increased omega-6 fatty acids and decreased omega-3 fatty acids intake. These changes have been correlated with numerous differences in prevalence and course of mental illnesses. Methods: A MEDLINE search from 1966 to December 2010 was completed to identify studies comparing changes in symptoms, functioning, other outcomes, and/or side effects in patients treated with omega-3 fatty acids for mental illness. The studies were reviewed and reported by specific psychiatric disorder studied. Conclusions: Omega-3 fatty acids play a role in many biologic functions. Epidemiologic data implicate omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies in many mental illnesses. Data are most robust for omega-3 fatty acids’ role in affective disorders. However, data are conflicting, negative, or absent for most mental illnesses.