Up to half of patients who suffer from depression do not respond to treatment with SSRIs, but Dutch research has found that this could be reversed by eating a diet high in fatty fish.
Researchers from the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam found that fatty acid metabolism disrupts the way stress hormones are regulated, which in turn affects antidepressant response.
They compared 70 initially unmedicated patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) with 51 matched control patients without the condition. After six weeks of SSRI treatment, the MDD patients showed signs of abnormal fatty acid metabolism, suggesting this was a symptom of MDD.
Fish intake link
How much fatty acid-rich fish the patients ate was also investigated.
The researchers found that those who ate fatty fish at least once a week had a 75% chance of responding to SSRIs, while those who never did had just a 23% chance of responding. This suggested that fatty acid metabolism could be modified through fish intake, thereby improving SSRI response rates.
Lead author Dr Roel Mocking said: ‘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.
‘Our 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.’