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Omega-3s Linked to Health of Menopausal Women

Two new studies reveal that ethyl eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), the omega-3 fatty acid derived from fish oil, may improve mood and ease hot flashes in menopausal women.

Psychological distress and depressive symptoms often occur during menopause and an emerging body of evidence indicates that omega-3 fatty acids may help alleviate depression. Consequently, researchers conducted two studies, the first to determine if ethyl EPA could improve depressive symptoms in menopausal women and the second to investigate the omega-3 fatty acid’s effect on hot flashes.

In the first study, researchers compared the effect of ethyl EPA supplementation or a placebo on psychological distress and depressive symptoms in middle-aged women. The researchers randomly divided women with moderate-to-severe psychological distress into two groups. One group of 59 women received 1.05 grams of ethyl EPA per day plus 0.15 grams of ethyl-docosahexaenoic acid (ethyl DHA), while 61 women received a placebo for 8 weeks.

The researchers found that menopausal women who suffered from psychological distress experienced a significant improvement in both their psychological distress scores and their depressive symptoms after taking the ethyl EPA compared to the women taking the placebo.

"To our knowledge, the researchers wrote, "this is the first trial of n-3 supplementation in the treatment of PD [psychological distress] and depressive symptoms in middle-aged women.

The researchers conducted a second study using the subjects from the first study to determine whether ethyl EPA had an effect on hot flashes and quality of life among middle-aged menopausal women between the ages of 40 and 55. Only women who were experiencing hot flashes were included in this study.

The scientists gave 45 women ethyl EPA and 46 women a placebo for eight weeks. At baseline, the average number of hot flashes was 2.8 per day. After 8 weeks, hot flash frequency and severity score decreased significantly in the ethyl EPA group compared with the placebo group. Frequency of hot flashes declined by a mean of 1.58 per day in the ethyl EPA group while in the placebo group there was a decline of only 0.50 per day. The odds of having the hot flashes were reduced by about three times among those taking ethyl EPA compared to those taking the placebo.

According to the study authors, "Supplementation with Ethyl-EPA omega-3 fatty acid reduced hot flash frequency and improved the hot flash score relative to placebo.

The researchers called for additional clinical trials specifically designed to evaluate the effects of omega-3 fatty acids in women who are even more symptomatic than those who took part in this trial.

This article was published on Sunday September 04, 2011.
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Article References:

Lucas M, Asselin G, Mérette C, Poulin MJ, Dodin S. Ethyl-eicosapentaenoic acid for the treatment of psychological distress and depressive symptoms in middle-aged women: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Feb;89(2):641-51.

Lucas M, Asselin G, Mérette C, Poulin MJ, Dodin S. Effects of ethyl-eicosapentaenoic acid omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on hot flashes and quality of life among middle-aged women: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial. Menopause. To be published in print March 2009;16(2). Published Online ahead of print 2008 Nov 20.