Clinicians take note: depressed patients want non-drug treatment options

During this year’s Depression Awareness Week, we at Igennus Healthcare Nutrition are imploring clinicians to advise patients as to the potential therapeutic and mood-regulating benefits of taking pure EPA supplements, in view of patient feedback that shows that 83% of people would like access to more information on non-drug treatments or natural supplements that can help depression.   

Depression is the number one psychological disorder in the UK and 10 times more people suffer from it today than 60 years ago [1], but is the UK relying too much on  prescription drugs as the sole solution for its depression problem?

The latest research shows that last year, 43.4 million prescriptions were dispensed for antidepressants – a figure 20% [2] higher than four years ago; and with one in ten people living with the condition at any one time in the UK, [3] sufferers need a more comprehensive solution.

The heart health benefits of fish oils have been well documented for decades, but it is only during recent years that their antidepressant qualities have come to light. As with commonly prescribed antidepressants, dosing and the length of the regime are key players when addressing the efficacy of any treatment.  Based on clinical studies, a daily dose of 1g pure EPA for a minimum period of three months is now advocated in order to provide relief from symptoms.

Nutrition scientist Dr Nina Bailey comments: “Modern diets rich in omega-6 and often low in long-chain omega-3 fats can leave us deficient in mood-regulating ‘good fats’ such as EPA. With sufficient levels of EPA, our bodies are able to normalise the production of inflammatory products that, in turn, influence neurotransmitter function, including the feel-good chemicals tryptophan and serotonin. In other words, EPA’s mode of action is similar to those of SSRI antidepressants, but with added benefits such as reducing cortisol, increasing blood flow to the brain, reducing inflammation, and all without the side effects associated with common antidepressants. I would urge clinicians to review the evidence in favour of EPA, and consider it as a viable add-on treatment for depressed patients.”

Anyone considering using omega-3 fish oil as part of their recovery from depression may want to muse over a few key facts before reaching out for the nearest product. The market is saturated with choice and supplements range not only in price, but also in purity, concentration, and most importantly in levels of the key active ingredient – EPA.  Whilst the research behind the potential therapeutic role of fish oil has been steadily mounting, with over 30 peer-reviewed papers published over the last decade, outcomes have often been varied and contradictory

This led researchers to investigate the discrepancies between studies in a bid to understand why some oils work and some oils simply do not.  Understandably, people trying generic fish oils for mood-enhancing benefits have often been disappointed at the results – but this is likely due to the inferior composition of standard fish oil. Not only do the majority of omega fish oil supplements available fail to offer the required dosage of 1 gram EPA required to alleviate depression symptoms, but the length of treatment of three months is also often not adhered to.

There are two omega-3s found in fish oil and the answer, it seems, lies in the greater antidepressant and anti-inflammatory efficacy of EPA than DHA [4,5]. Due to similarities in structure, EPA and DHA compete 1:1 for sites of action and the DHA within a treatment regime appears to ‘block’ the therapeutic actions of EPA, rendering the oil ineffective as an antidepressant [6].   Given that the majority of fish oils contain both EPA and DHA, often in very similar ratios, it is not surprising that there is a lack of efficacy with use of these generic products.

Removing the DHA, heavy metals, PCBs and dioxins purifies the product, whilst concentrating the EPA allows delivery of a prescription-strength dose, thereby increasing the efficacy of a treatment regime.  A pure EPA product offers significant outcomes on mood, feelings of anxiety, inflammation and levels of stress hormones – all known to play a role in the symptoms of depression that generic oils simply do not deliver. EPA is essentially an anti-inflammatory ‘good fat’ that enables our bodies to normalise inflammation, which in turn regulates neurotransmitter function and balances the feel-good chemicals tryptophan and serotonin, as well as the stress hormone cortisol. Ethyl-EPA is especially concentrated, and has been shown to offer effective support for brain cell signalling and mood balance when taken at a dosage of 1 gram daily for three months. As effective as Prozac in its actions [7,8], ethyl-EPA is becoming recognised as a safe, convenient treatment for depression and without the negative side effects associated with conventional antidepressants.

Igennus ethyl-EPA products are prescription-strength, ultra-purified and independently batch-tested, guaranteeing optimum purity and safety. An initial loading dose of E-EPA 90 is recommended, before reducing to a maintenance dose of Vegepa E-EPA 70 for long-term support. Both products are available at our online shop, Nutri Centres, Revital, and all good independent health food stores.

***We’ll be donating 50 pence per box of E-EPA 90 and Vegepa E-EPA 70 sold to Depression Can Be Fun to help support the running costs of this worthy support organisation.***




[4] Martins JG, Bentsen H, Puri BK. (2012) Eicosapentaenoic acid appears to be the key omega-3 fatty acid component associated with efficacy in major depressive disorder: a critique of Bloch and Hannestad and updated meta-analysis. Mol Psychiatry. 2012 Apr

[5] Martins JG. (2009) EPA but not DHA appears to be responsible for the efficacy of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in depression: evidence from a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Am Coll Nutr.  28:525-42. Review.

[6] Sublette ME, Ellis SP, Geant AL, Mann JJ. (2011) Meta-analysis of the effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in clinical trials in depression. J Clin Psychiatry. 72:1577-84.

[7] Jazayeri S, Tehrani-Doost M, Keshavarz SA, Hosseini M, Djazayery A, Amini H, Jalali M, Peet M. (2008) Comparison of therapeutic effects of omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid and fluoxetine, separately and in combination, in major depressive disorder. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 42:192-8.

[8] Jazayeri S, Keshavarz SA, Tehrani-Doost M, Djalali M, Hosseini M, Amini H, Chamari M, Djazayery A. (2010) Effects of eicosapentaenoic acid and fluoxetine on plasma cortisol, serum interleukin-1beta and interleukin-6 concentrations in patients with major depressive disorder. Psychiatry Res. 178:112-5.


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