Low omega-3 levels are associated with personality and cognitive reactivity


In the etiology of depression are implicated both genetic and environmental factors, and the evidence suggests that, among the second, the habitual diet is relevant. Many studies have related deficiency in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) with depressive disorders and suggest that greater habitual intake of EPA and DHA is associated with reduced risk for developing depressive symptoms. The mechanisms by which omega-3 fatty acids exert their effects on depression are not completely understood, but currently it is considered that they are mediated by their role in inflammation.

From a psychological perspective, there is model (a theory) that affirms that vulnerability to depression is marked by dysfunctional attitudes based on childhood experiences that configure rules by which the person gives meaning to his/her environment. These dysfunctional attitudes remain latent until they are activated by stressful events (this is called cognitive reactivity), situation in which they favor the appearance of negative thoughts about oneself, the world and the future. Cognitive reactivity is associated with the start and recurrence of depressive episodes. Therefore, dysfunctional attitudes and cognitive reactivity are considered important factors on the origin of depression.

With the aim of examining the possible relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and cognitive reactivity, a group of researchers from Netherlands have analyzed data from 2,912 adults who had answered two tests: the NEO Five Factor Inventory, which measures personality traits, and the Leiden Index of Depression Sensitivity-Revised, a measure of cognitive reactivity that has demonstrated its relation with biological markers of vulnerability to depression. Plasma omega-3 fatty acids and DHA levels of the participants also were assessed.

The outcomes showed that low omega-3 fatty acids and DHA levels are associated with personality (high neuroticism, low extraversion and low conscientiousness) and cognitive reactivity (high hopelessness/ death wish). These results provide more information about the association between omega-3 fatty acids and depression.


Thesing CS, Bot M, Milaneschi Y, Giltay EJ, Penninx BWJH. The association of omega-3 fatty acid levels with personality and cognitive reactivity. J Psychosom Res. 2018;108:93-101.

McNamara RK. Role of omega-3 fatty acids in the etiology, treatment, and prevention of depression: Current status and future directions. J Nutr Intermed Metab. 2016;5:96-106.

Senín-Calderón C, Perona-Garcelán S, Ruíz-Veguilla M, Rodríguez Testal JF. Leiden Index of Depression Sensitivity-Revised (LEIDS-R): Spanish validation proposal. Int J Clin Health Psychol. 2017;17(2):139-50.



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