p>MAASTRICHT, THE NETHERLANDS. There is substantial evidence that major depression is associated with changes in the fatty acid composition of serum lipids. Researchers have noted that the ratio of omega-6 fatty acids (linoleic acid, arachidonic acid) to omega-3 fatty acids (linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid) is substantially higher in depressed patients than in normal controls. There is also evidence that omega-3 fatty acid levels and, more specifically, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) levels are substantially lower in depressed patients. Researchers at Maastricht University have now extended these findings to include post-partum depression (PPD).
Their study included 48 healthy, pregnant women who had blood samples taken shortly after delivery. These blood samples were analyzed to determine the fatty acid profile in serum phospholipids (PL) and cholesteryl esters (CE). The women were also interviewed within 6 to 10 months after delivery to ascertain whether they suffered from PPD. Ten of the women (21%) had indeed developed PPD with most reporting depressive symptoms immediately following delivery. Analyses of the blood samples showed that DHA concentration and total omega-3 level were significantly lower in both the PL and CE fractions of blood serum taken from women who developed PPD.
The Dutch researchers speculate that the milder form of PPD, post-partum blues, also is related to a fatty acid imbalance and is currently investigating this in a separate study involving 98 women. They conclude that pregnant women at risk for developing PPD may benefit from preventive supplementation with DHA, perhaps in combination with its precursor docosapentaenoic acid.
De Vriese, SR, et al. Lowered serum n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) levels predict the occurrence of postpartum depression: further evidence that lowered n-PUFAs are related to major depression. Life Sciences, Vol. 73, 2003, pp. 3181-87