The omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have previously been associated with a reduced risk of mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found EPA may also help reduce the severity of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. The study included 110 accident survivors with severe physical injuries and generally non-severe PTSD. Researchers assigned the patients to take either 1,470 mg of DHA plus 147 mg of EPA or a placebo, daily for 12 weeks. At the beginning and end of the study, researchers measured the percentages of EPA, DHA, and arachidonic acid (AA, an omega-6 fatty acid obtained from animal fats or produced in the body from vegetable fats) in the participants’ red blood cell membranes, as well as the severity of their PTSD symptoms. Here is what they found:
In patients taking DHA plus EPA, increases in the percentage of EPA in their red blood cell membranes were directly associated with improvements in PTSD symptoms.
Patients whose AA percentages increased experienced worsening of PTSD symptoms.
These findings suggest that EPA in particular may play a role in reducing PTSD symptoms, while AA may aggravate them. While the mechanisms of this relationship are still unclear, the researchers believe EPA’s anti-inflammatory effects may reduce certain inflammatory markers associated with PTSD. More clinical research is needed to shed light on the relationship between fatty acids and the experience of PTSD symptoms, and to provide useful information about the effectiveness of fatty acid supplements in preventing and treating PTSD.
Source: Journal of Affective Disorders