A new review1 published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences aimed to investigate whether omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids can reduce the symptoms often associated with the transition to menopause, including symptoms of depression. The review, which ultimately included 16 published studies on omega-3 fatty acid intake and hot flashes, depression, and cognitive disorders in menopausal women, found that omega-3 fatty acid consumption had a slight positive impact on menopause and depression May have symptoms. However, the reported results were scattered and inconclusive, leading the researchers to conclude that further research is needed.
As the authors write in the review, depression is a far more common psychological problem in women than in men. In fact, women may be 2.5 times more likely to experience major depression than men. Women who are currently going through menopause may experience symptoms of depression even more often as estrogen levels drop.
“Estrogens are also involved in the neurotransmitter systems involved in the pathophysiology of depression,” the authors explain. “They act as serotonergic agonists / modulators by increasing receptor binding sites, synthesis and uptake in both animal models and in postmenopausal women.” They add that with estrogen therapy, women may be able to improve perimenopausal depression as well as depressive symptoms. While hormone therapy is seen as the preferred method for alleviating menopausal symptoms, many women prefer alternative therapies. In the current review, the authors therefore attempted to assess whether omega-3 fatty acids, which they say are “one of the most widely used alternative therapies”, have benefits for depressive and menopausal symptoms.
After reviewing all omega-3 fatty acid and menopause data published before April 2018, the researchers observed some trends. First, some of the existing data suggested that omega-3 fatty acids, with or without other intervention, may help reduce menopausal symptoms. However, you write that existing study data indicate that it may ultimately be more beneficial to first examine whether a subject has an omega-3 deficiency. If there is an omega-3 deficiency, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may be more effective in treating menopausal symptoms.
Two of the studies consulted reported no effect of omega-3 consumption on hot flashes and depressive symptoms. However, the researchers state that this may be due to limitations in the study. Some of these limitations include the heterogeneity of the methods used in the original studies, selection criteria, or a combination of both. In addition, many of the original studies included neuropsychological tests and scales. The authors write that the results of these tests cannot be adjusted across several tests and therefore cannot be generalized in the present overview.
“In conclusion,” they write, “a beneficial role of [omega-3 fatty acids] in hot flashes and depressive and cognitive symptoms in connection with the transition to menopause is far from conclusive. “
They added that “the lack of consistency between studies looking at this [omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids] Effects in perimenopausal disorders imply the need for larger prospective interventional clinical studies to elucidate the subtypes (EPA or DHA or both types) and the therapeutic dose of [omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids] required for such perimenopausal disorders. “
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1. Ciappolino V et al., “N-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Menopausal Transition: A Systematic Review of Depressive and Cognitive Disorders with Concomitant Vasomotor Symptoms,” International Journal of Molecular Sciences, vol. 19, no. 7 (June 23, 2018): 1849