Long chain omega-3 fatty acids intake, fish consumption and mental disorders in the SUN cohort study



Very long chain omega-3 fatty acids (w-3 PUFA) intake and fish consumption have been suggested as protective factors against neuropsychiatric disorders but there is scarcity of large cohort studies assessing this association.

Aim of the study

To assess the association between w-3-PUFA intake and fish consumption and mental disorders.


A prospective cohort study was performed in 7,903 participants. W-3 PUFA intake and fish consumption were ascertained through a validated semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire. The outcomes after 2 years of follow-up were: (1) Incident mental disorder (depression, anxiety, or stress), (2) incident depression, and (3) incident anxiety. Logistic regression models and generalized additive models were fit to assess the relationship between w-3 PUFA intake or fish consumption and the incidence of these outcomes. Odds ratios (OR) and their 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated.


173 cases of depression, 335 cases of anxiety, and 4 cases of stress were observed during 2-year follow-up. ORs (95% CI) of mental disorder for successive quintiles of energy-adjusted w-3 PUFA intake were 1 (reference), 0.72 (0.52–0.99), 0.79 (0.58–1.08), 0.65 (0.47–0.90), and 1.04 (0.78–1.40). Subjects with a moderate consumption of fish (third and fourth quintiles of consumption: median of each quintile 83.3 and 112 g/day, respectively) had a relative risk reduction higher than 30%.


A potential benefit of w-3 PUFA intake on total mental disorders is suggested, although no linear trend was apparent.

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We are indebted to the participants of the SUN Study for their continued cooperation and participation. We thank other members of the SUN Group: M. Seguí-Gómez, C. de la Fuente, J. de Irala, A. Alonso, M. Delgado-Rodríguez, M. Serrano-Martínez, J.A. Martínez, Ll Serra-Majem and J. Doreste. The Spanish Ministry of Health (Fondo de Investigaciones Sanitarias, Projects PI 042241, PI040233, & PI050976) and the Navarra Regional Government (PI41/2005) are acknowledged for supporting the study.

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Correspondence to Dra. Almudena Sanchez-Villegas.

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Sanchez-Villegas, A., Henríquez, P., Figueiras, A. et al. Long chain omega-3 fatty acids intake, fish consumption and mental disorders in the SUN cohort study. Eur J Nutr 46, 337–346 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-007-0671-x

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  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • fish
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • mental disorder