Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA). A growing body of evidence suggests that this form PUFA is a useful and well tolerated treatment for major depressive disorder, a common and serious mental illness.

The efficacy of omega-3 PUFA is routinely explained as being due to a deficiency caused by inadequate dietary intake of this class of fatty acid. The hypothesis considered states that low omega-3 PUFA abundance in patients with major depressive and related disorders is due to an underlying genetically determined abnormality.

The hypothesis can explain why although a specific and consistent deficit in omega-3, but not omega-6, PUFA occurs in major depressive and related disorders, the literature does not consistently support the notion that this is due to deficient dietary intake.

Specifically it is hypothesized that having genetically determined low activity of fatty acid CoA ligase 4 and/or Type IV phospholipase A(2) combined with the low dietary availability of omega-3 PUFA results in reduced cellular uptake of omega-3 PUFA and constitutes a risk factor for depression.

The hypothesis also has important consequences for the pharmacological treatment of depression in that it predicts that administering agents which enhance phospholipid synthesis, particularly those containing ethanolamine such as CDP-ethanolamine, should be effective antidepressants especially when co-administered with omega-3 PUFA.