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Depression as a risk factor for ischaemic heart disease in men: population based case-control study

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.316.7146.1714 (Published 06 June 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1714

Omega-3 PUFA: a possible aetiological factor in both depression and ischaemic heart disease

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: a possible aetiological factor in both depression and ischaemic heart disease?

EDITOR - Hippisley-Cox et al, in last week’s BMJ, report on the association between depression and ischaemic heart disease supporting the well established observation of an association between depression and myocardial infarction1. They speculate about the possible explanations for this association, including a previously unrecognised biological link.

We have reported that depression is associated with depleted omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in erythrocyte membranes from depressed patients 2, 3, and that there is a significant negative correlation between dietary omega-3 PUFA intake and severity of depression 3. We and others have speculated that a dietary lack of omega-3 PUFAs may be the biological link between depression and myocardial infarction, for which there is a well established link with low dietary omega-3 PUFAs 4, 5.

Our evidence would suggest that increased dietary omega-3 PUFAs may be beneficial not only to cardiovascular health, but also to mental health.

Malcolm Peet Reader in Psychiatry, Sheffield University Department of Psychiatry, Northern General Hospital, Herries Road, Sheffield, S5 7AU
Rhian W Edwards PhD Student, Sheffield University Department of Psychiatry, Northern General Hospital, Herries Road, Sheffield, S5 7AU

1 Hippisley-Cox J, Fielding K, Pringle M. Depression as a risk factor for ischaemic heart disease in men: population based case-control study. BMJ 1998;316:1714-9
2 Peet M, Murphy B, Shay J, Horrobin D. Depletion of omega-3 fatty acid levels in red blood cell membranes of depressive patients. Biological Psychiatry 1998;43:315-19
3 Edwards Rh, Peet M, Shay J, Horrobin D. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid levels in the diet and in red blood cell membranes of depressed patients. Journal of Affective Disorders 1998; 48:149-55
4 Peet M, Edwards Rh W. Lipids, depression and physical diseases. Current Opinion in Psychiatry 1997; 10: 477-80
5 Hibbeln J R, Salem N. Dietary polyunsaturated fats and depression: when cholesterol does not satisfy. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1995;62:1-9

Competing interests: No competing interests

10 June 1998
Malcolm Peet
Reader in Psychiatry
University of Sheffield