Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Fish Oil for Depression?

What can you tell me about using fish oil to treat depression? Does it really help?

Answer (Published 9/12/2011)

Fish oil is a rich source of the two essential omega-3 fatty acids - EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Omega 3s are found in beef, eggs and poultry, but are most abundant in the fat of cold water, oily fish and are also available in supplement form. The body requires adequate amounts of both EPA and DHA to maintain optimum health. For that reason, I recommend eating oily fleshed, wild caught, cold water fish two to three times per week. Most people don't do that and as a result, don't get enough omega-3s, making this perhaps the most serious dietary deficiency in our population.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor for Mood Support - A healthy outlook on life is a cornerstone of optimal health. The good news: proper diet, lifestyle, exercise and prudent supplemental nutrition can all help support an optimistic disposition. Learn more, and get your free, personalized Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor Recommendation today.

A great deal of scientific data links low tissue levels of EPA and DHA to a host of mental/emotional disorders, including depression, violent behavior, suicide, and learning disabilities. Dietary supplementation with these fats, usually in the form of fish oil, has proved to be an effective, natural and nontoxic therapy for bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, postpartum depression, seasonal affective disorder and other health concerns. It also helps prevent depression and improve overall emotional well-being. Very high doses of fish oil - 20 grams a day or more - have been used as treatments without any ill effects. In fact, there is no downside to adding good quality fish oil to your diet (except for the sustainability of ocean resources, a significant concern).

Because omega-3 deficiency is so common and raising tissue levels of omega-3s has so many health benefits, I recommend that everyone take two to four grams a day of a product that provides both EPA and DHA (more of the former). Read labels carefully to make sure you're getting two to four grams of total omega-3 fatty acids (EPA+DHA), not of oil. Pass up products that include omega-6 or omega-9 fatty acids; you don't need to supplement with them. Buy only brands of fish oil that are "molecularly distilled" or otherwise guaranteed to be free of toxic contaminants. You may have to take three or four capsules twice a day to get the recommended dose. Take them on a full stomach. If you get fish-flavored burps, try keeping the product in the freezer and swallowing frozen capsules. I cannot overemphasize the importance of this simple measure to improve emotional well-being. Not only does it offer real protection against depression, I believe it can help move your emotional set point away from sadness and toward contentment.

For a full discussion of natural remedies for depression and an integrative plan for optimum emotional well-being, watch for my new book, Spontaneous Happiness, to be published by Little, Brown & Co. in November, 2011.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Learn more about Dr. Weil's new book and online program: Spontaneous Happiness

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here