Skip to main content

Fish oil lowers inflammation and anxiety

Fish oil lowers inflammation and anxietyIn a study from Ohio State University researchers have shown that a group of healthy young students who took supplements of fish oil achieved a significant reduction of inflammation and more surprisingly: of anxiety. In addition, it seems likely that elderly and sick will get even more benefits of fish oil supplements.

The study was a controlled randomized study of 12 weeks duration. A group of 68 volunteers, first- and second year medical students of both sexes aged 21-29 years participated. All participants were interviewed six times during the study, and blood samples were taken and carried out along with a series of psychological tests to measure students' level of stress, anxiety and depression. In addition, the students filled out questionnaires about their diets during the previous weeks.

High dose of fish oil

Half of the students were given omega -3 supplement, while the other half received placebo. The active treatment consisted of approx. 2.5 g omega -3 fatty acids (2085 mg EPA and 348 mg DHA) . The ratio of EPA and DHA of 7:1 was chosen because EPA has previously shown a relatively stronger anti-inflammatory and antidepressant activity than DHA.

The placebo preparation consisted of a mixture of palm oil, olive oil, soy oil, canola oil and cocoa butter added a little fish flavor. The composition of the placebo mixture, respectively saturated,  monosaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (37:42:21) corresponds approximately to the ratio of fatty acids consumed by adults in the United States.

Compared with the control group the fish oil group achieved a 14% reduction in the inflammation promoting signal substance interleukin 6 (IL-6). In addition, the researchers found a 20% reduction in anxiety. In this study, the researchers found no significant difference between the two groups in the level of depression. The group who received fish oil, however, achieved an increase in the blood of 122% of omega-3 at the end of the study.

Anxieties promote inflammation

Both depression and anxiety have been shown to increase the body's production of inflammation promoting cytokines, and the same goes for stressful experiences. Adipose tissue in the abdomen can excrete up to three times more IL-6 than subcutaneous fat. The mood enhancing properties of omega-3 fatty acids may prove to be related to its ability to reduce inflammation.

Previous studies of long-chain omega- 3 fatty acids have shown mixed results, with the most notable effects observed in groups of elderly, diabetics and people with high levels of fat in the blood (serum triglycerides). In all these groups you find a relatively high degree of inflammation in the body.

Supplement relevant

The amount of fish oil used in the study was probably four to five times higher than the amount of fish oil as most get from their daily diet. This makes supplementation relevant for those who have a need to reduce a high degree of inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a very significant precursor to many diseases, to disability and death.


Kiecolt-Glaser JK, et al. Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: A randomized controlled trial. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. Brain Behav Immun. 2011;25(8):1725-34.


About inflammation

Inflammation is the body's response to tissue injury, and stress. Tissue injury can be caused by an infection (bacteria and viruses), or an open wound, which causes the immune system to release signaling molecules and white blood cells. Inflammation can also occur in case of damage, without any infection present. Stroke and burns are examples of this, but also common strain injuries as a tennis elbow or a mouse arm are examples of inflammation.
A rule to remember which can be traced back to the 1 st century AD lists the four classic signs of inflammation which are: Heat, redness, swelling and pain. Later came a fifth point, which is loss of function. In Latin the rule to remember goes as follows: Calor, rubor, tumor, dolor et functio lesa.

  • Created on .