OBJECTIVES: We sought to obtain preliminary data regarding the efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids for major depressive disorder associated with the menopausal transition. Secondary outcomes were assessed for vasomotor symptoms (or hot flashes).

METHODS: After a single-blind placebo lead-in, participants received 8 weeks of treatment with open-label omega-3 fatty acid capsules (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, 2 g/d). The Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) was the primary outcome measure. Hot flashes were monitored prospectively using daily diaries and the Hot Flash Related Daily Interference Scale. Blood samples for plasma pretreatment and posttreatment essential fatty acid assays were obtained. Because of the small sample size, data were analyzed using nonparametric techniques.

RESULTS: Of 20 participants treated with omega-3 fatty acids, 19 (95%) completed the study. None discontinued because of adverse effects. The pretreatment and final mean MADRS scores were 24.2 and 10.7, respectively, reflecting a significant decrease in MADRS scores (P < 0.0001). The response rate was 70% (MADRS score decrease of ≥50%), and the remission rate was 45% (final MADRS score of ≤7). Responders had significantly lower pretreatment docosahexaenoic acid levels than nonresponders did (P = 0.03). Hot flashes were present in 15 (75%) participants. Among those with hot flashes at baseline, the number of hot flashes per day improved significantly from baseline (P = 0.02) and Hot Flash Related Daily Interference Scale scores decreased significantly (P = 0.006).

CONCLUSIONS: These data support further study of omega-3 fatty acids for major depressive disorder and hot flashes in women during the menopausal transition.