Study finds omega-3 supplements can help reduce stress


April 20, 2021, 7:41 p.m.

Matthew Kincanon

Posted: Apr 20, 2021 at 7:41 pm

Updated: April 20, 2021, 10:28 p.m.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – It turns out that a daily dose of omega-3 supplements can slow the effects of aging by suppressing damage and increasing protection at the cellular level during and after a stressful event.

Ohio State University researchers found that daily supplements containing 2.5 grams of omega-3, the highest dose tested, best help the body withstand the harmful effects of stress.

Compared to the placebo group, participants who took omega-3 produced less cortisol, a stress hormone, and less pro-inflammatory protein during a stressful event.

The researchers said the supplements contributed to stress resistance, which reduces damage during stress and sustained anti-inflammatory activity, as well as protection of cellular components that are shrinking with aging.

These potential antiaging effects were noteworthy as they were found in both healthy and sedentary, overweight, and medium-sized people – all traits that could lead to a higher risk of accelerated aging.

“The results suggest that omega-3 supplementation is a relatively simple change people could make that could have a positive impact on breaking the chain between stress and negative health effects,” said Annelise Madison, lead author of the Papers and PhD student in the clinical field of psychology at the university.

For the study, participants took either 2.5 g or 1.25 g omega-3 fatty acids per day or a placebo. After four months on the supplements, the 138 participants, ages 40 to 85, took a 20-minute test that combined a speech and mathematical subtraction problem that is known to reliably induce an inflammatory stress response.

Only those on the highest omega-3 dose helped suppress damage during the stressful event compared to the placebo group by lowering cortisol and protein by an average of 19 to 33 percent.

The researchers also suggested that omega-3s, by reducing stress-related inflammation, might help disrupt the link between repetitive stress and depressive symptoms. Previous research has shown that people with a higher inflammatory response to a laboratory stressor may develop more depressed symptoms over time.

“Not everyone who is depressed has increased inflammation – around a third. This explains why omega-3 supplementation does not always lead to a reduction in depressive symptoms, ”said Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry and Director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research. “Unless you have increased inflammation, omega-3s may not be very helpful. But for people with depression who do, our results suggest that omega-3s would be more useful. “

The 2.5-gram dose of omega-3 fatty acids is much higher than what most Americans consume on a daily basis, but study participants showed no signs of problems with the supplements, Madison said.

The research was supported in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health.


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