Omega-3 fats and the psychological wellbeing of menopausal women

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Omega-3 fats, eicosapentanoic acid (EPA)and docosahexanenoic acid (DHA), are essential for our brain and body function. They are extremely helpful for preventing heart disease, psychiatric and neurological conditions, cancer, immune deficiencies, and eczema among others. 60% of the brain consists of DHA and if there is a lack, your brain can’t function. These fats are essential for growth and overall health of blood vessels and nerves. They also help heal inflammation and promote numerous cellular activities. A deficiency of these fats is strongly associated with ADHD, depression, anxiety, bipolar disease, autism, learning disabilities, dementia, etc. So it must not come as a surprise this recent article about omega-3 fats benefits in menopausal women:

Omega-3 fats found to improve the psychological wellbeing of menopausal women

Dr. John Briffa
28 January 2009

Women who are in the throes of menopause can experience a range of debilitating symptoms which can be psychological (e.g. anxiety and/or depression) and/or physical (e.g. hot flushes and night sweats) in nature. Standard conventional medical treatment for the menopause is centred around hormone replacement therapy (HRT). However, concerns about the safety of HRT (it’s linked with an increased risk of breast cancer, for instance) and some doubts about just how effective it is for quelling menopausal symptoms has led many women to seek alternatives.

One popular brand of natural medicine which offers something for menopausal women is herbal medicine. Quite a few herbs are recommended for menopausal symptoms including Black cohosh and St John’s Wort. There is evidence which supports the use of St John’s Wort as an antidepressant, and Black cohosh has been shown to have the potential to treat menopausal symptoms successfully.

One other treatment strategy that may have some merit in the treatment of menopause involves the omega-3 fats such as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) found in oily fish. For a start, omega-3 fats do seem to have some ability to reduce the risk of cardiovascular conditions such as heart disease and stroke (risk of which is generally higher after the menopause than before). Omega-3 fats also seem to have the power to protect against depression, and may even assist in the treatment of this condition.

In a study published in the most recent edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 120 menopausal women suffering from ‘psychological distress’ were treated with omega-3 fats or placebo (sunflower oil) for 8 weeks [1]. The women taking omega-3 fats were given 1.05 g of EPA and 0.15 g of DHA per day.

Some of the women in this study suffered from depression severe enough to be diagnosed as a ‘major depressive episode’. Compared to placebo, individuals in this group were not significantly helped by taking omega-3 fats after 8 weeks of treatment.

However, when the results from the rest of the women were analysed, omega-3 treatment was associated with significant improvements in psychological wellbeing and reduced symptoms of depression. These results suggest that omega-3 supplementation may be beneficial for improving the psychological wellbeing of menopausal women.


1. Lucas M, et al. Ethyl-eicosapentaenoic acid for the treatment of psychological distress and depressive symptoms in middle-aged women: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2009;89: 641-651

Omega 3 fats plays a key role in your body and that is why they are linked with so many different mood, memory, attention problems and chronic diseases.

Further reading:

Fish Oil Is Good For Your Heart and More

Freeman, M.P. et al. 2006. Omega-3 fatty acids: evidence basis for treatment and future research in psychiatry. J Clin Psychiatry 67 (12): 1954-1967. Review

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