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Omega-3 Fatty Acids in the Prevention of Interferon-Alpha-Induced Depression: Results from a Randomized, Controlled Trial

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Kuan-Pin Su, Hsueh-Chou Lai, Hui-Ting Yang, Wen-Pang Su, Cheng-Yuan Peng, Jane Pei-Chen Chang, Hui-Chih Chang, Carmine M. Pariante

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-566
JournalBiological psychiatry
Volume76
Issue number7
Early online date17 Jan 2014
DOIs
E-pub ahead of print17 Jan 2014
Published1 Oct 2014

King's Authors

Abstract

Background
Interferon (IFN)-α therapy for chronic hepatitis C virus infection is frequently associated with depression. The routine prophylaxis with antidepressants might expose patients to adverse effects, hence, the need for alternative preventive interventions. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are safe and effective essential nutritional compounds used for the treatment of depression, putatively through an anti-inflammatory action. In addition, lower erythrocyte levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have been associated with an increased risk of IFN-induced depression.

Methods
We conducted a 2-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial comparing eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and placebo for the prevention of IFN-α-induced depression. A total of 162 patients consented to participate and were randomized to the study. All of the patients completed the 2-week trial; 152 participants were followed throughout the 24 weeks of IFN-α treatment and were included in the analysis.

Results
Compared with placebo, the incident rates of IFN-α-induced depression were significantly lower in EPA-treated but not in DHA-treated patients (10% and 28%, respectively, versus 30% for placebo, p = .037). Both EPA and DHA significantly delayed the onset of IFN-induced depression (week of onset: 12.0 and 11.7, respectively, versus 5.3 for placebo, p = .002). EPA and DHA were both well tolerated in this population. EPA treatment increased both EPA and DHA erythrocyte levels, but DHA only increased DHA erythrocyte levels.

Conclusions
EPA is effective in the prevention of depression in hepatitis C virus patients received IFN-α therapy. Our study confirms the notion that anti-inflammatory strategies are effective antidepressants in the context of depression associated with inflammation.

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