The popular supplement flaxseed oil contains an essential fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid, one of the omega-3s. However it also appears to have a few health benefits of which research is just now beginning to prove. One of these is depression. While the conclusion is still unclear, there is evidence that omega-3 in general is somewhat effective at reducing depression. Flaxseed oil itself may not be as effective. Also, it may have a negative effect on some forms of depression. In this article I’ll detail each of these factors, to see if flaxseed oil is effective at combating depression.
Several recent studies have shown some decrease in depression in those whose diets contained more omega-3 than normal. Other studies have not shown a correlation. In one study, there was a decrease in depression in those taking a small amount of omega-3, but no difference between the placebo group and those taking a higher dose. In other words, the lower doses actually seemed more effective. However, there is one problem with these studies.
They examined the effects of omega-3, but not specifically flaxseed oil. Flaxseed does contain an omega-3 acid, but it is one that the body itself must break down into the more usable acids, unlike with fish oil, which already contains high amounts of the beneficial fatty acids.
In short, flaxseed oil is not the best choice for omega-3. The doctors involved in the above studies recommended the use of fish oil and not flax.
Now, there have been some anecdotal reports of users having success with flaxseed oil on their depression, so I do suggest exploring it as a possibility if you have tried everything else. But if you aren’t vegetarian, try fish oil instead.
One study that did use flaxseed oil involved bipolar patients. The study concluded that flaxseed increased the mania in those with bipolar disorder, while potentially decreasing the amount of depression. The conclusion suggested the possibility of using flaxseed to treat depression but keeping it away from those with bipolar disorder.
Unfortunately, the research on flaxseed oil and depression is inconclusive. While the more potent omega-3 found in fish oil supplements has shown some ability to treat it, and flaxseed oil has some evidence for the same, there just isn’t a good indication that it will be effective for anyone at this point in time. Personally, I recommend trying it for your depression if all else has failed; flaxseed oil, and perhaps fish oil failing that.