A recent study has found a potentially new way of treating depression and its debilitating symptoms.

Researchers headed by Roel J. T. Mocking from the Program of Mood Disorders, Department of Psychiatry at the University of Amsterdam conducted a meta-analysis to examine the potential health benefits of taking omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) supplements for people diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD).

The researchers analyzed 13 previously conducted studies that included a total of 1,233 participants. They found that people who were taking EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) omega-3 PUFA supplements experienced a reduction in their depressive symptoms. People who took more EPA and DHA omega-3 PUFA supplements combined with antidepressants appeared to experience the greatest reductions in their MDD symptoms.

"This new meta-analysis nuances earlier research on the importance of long chain omega-3s in MDD," Mocking said.

The researchers added that more research should be conducted to further examine the link between EPA and DHA omega-3 PUFA supplementation and depressive symptoms. These trials should also account for the use of antidepressants.

"Future precision/personalized medicine trials should establish whether possible interactions between EPA and antidepressants could provide targets to improve antidepressant response and its prediction," the authors wrote. "Nevertheless, potential long-term biochemical side effects of high-dosed add-on EPA supplementation should be carefully monitored."

The findings come after a recent study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry looked into the link between omega-3 PUFA supplementation and depression. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo., reported that depressed people who already had high levels of omega-3 in their blood benefited from taking Omega-3 PUFA supplement on top of their antidepressants.

"We found that people with higher levels of omega-3 in their blood may benefit more from additional omega-3, in the form of supplements, than those whose blood levels of the fatty acids were lower at the outset," pyschiatry professor and lead investigator Robert M. Carney said. "Because depression is linked to heart attacks and sudden cardiac death in patients with cardiovascular disease, we have been trying to figure out how best to improve depression in these patients. These findings offer potential answers for a very significant problem."

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has reported that major depression is the most common type of mental illness in the U.S., with an estimated 15.7 million adults aged 18 and older, or 6.7 percent, being affected by it in 2014.

The study was published in the March 15 issue of the journal Translational Psychiatry.