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Comparison between the AA/EPA ratio in depressed and non depressed elderly females: omega-3 fatty acid supplementation correlates with improved symptoms but does not change immunological parameters

Angela Maria Rizzo1*, Paola Antonia Corsetto1, Gigliola Montorfano1, Annalisa Opizzi2, Milena Faliva2, Attilio Giacosa3, Giovanni Ricevuti4, Claudio Pelucchi5, Bruno Berra1 and Mariangela Rondanelli2

Author affiliations

1 Dipartimento di Scienze Farmacologiche e Biomolecolari, Università degli Studi di Milano, Via D. Trentacoste 2, Milan, 20134, Italy

2 Department of Applied Health Sciences, Azienda di Servizi alla Persona (ASP) di Pavia, Università degli Studi di Pavia, Pavia, Italy

3 Department of Gastroenterology, Policlinico di Monza, Monza, Italy

4 Department of Internal Medicine and Therapeutics, Geriatric Section, University of Pavia, Azienda di Servizi alla Persona (ASP) di Pavia, Pavia, Italy

5 Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, Milan, Italy

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Citation and License

Nutrition Journal 2012, 11:82  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-82

Published: 10 October 2012



Depression is one of the most frequently missed diagnoses in elderly people, with obvious negative effects on quality of life. Various studies have shown that long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFA) may be useful in its management. Our objective was to evaluate whether a supplement containing n-3 PUFA improves depressive symptoms in depressed elderly patients, and whether the blood fatty acid pattern is correlated with these changes.


The severity of depressive symptoms according to the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS), blood fatty acid composition and erythrocyte phospholipids were analyzed in 46 depressed females aged 66-95y, diagnosed with depression according to DSMIV, within the context of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. 22 depressed females were included in the intervention group (2.5 g/day of n-3 PUFA for 8 weeks), and 24 in the placebo group. We also measured immunological parameters (CD2, CD3, CD4, CD8, CD16, CD19 and cytokines (IL-5, IL-15).


The mean GDS score and AA/EPA ratio, in whole blood and RBC membrane phospholipids, were significantly lower after 2 months supplementation with n-3 PUFA. A significant correlation between the amelioration of GDS and the AA/EPA ratio with some immunological parameters, such as CD2, CD19, CD4, CD16 and the ratio CD4/CD8, was also found. Nevertheless, omega-3 supplementation did not significantly improve the studied immunological functions.


n-3 PUFA supplementation ameliorates symptoms in elderly depression. The n-3 PUFA status may be monitored by means of the determination of whole blood AA/EPA ratio.

Omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids; Depressed mood; Elderly; AA/EPA; Cell membrane; Phospholipids; EPA; DHA