OBJECTIVE: Experimental and observational data suggest that a higher dietary intake of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated acids may lead to a decreased risk of depressive disorders. We assessed multivariable-adjusted associations of fish consumption and dietary intakes of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) with depressive symptoms in a population-based sample of 3317 African-American and Caucasian men and women from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study.

METHODS: Diet was assessed in year 7 (1992-1993) and depressive symptoms were measured in years 10 (1995-1996), 15 (2000-2001), and 20 (2005-2006) by the 20-item Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale. Depressive symptoms were defined as a Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale score >/=16 or self-reported use of antidepressant medication.

RESULTS: In the entire cohort, the highest quintiles of intakes of EPA (>/=0.03% energy), DHA (>/=0.05% energy), and EPA + DHA (>/=0.08% energy) were associated with a lower risk of depressive symptoms at year 10 (P for trends = 0.16, 0.10, and 0.03, respectively). The observed inverse associations were more pronounced in women. For the total number of occasions with depressive symptoms, the multivariable adjusted odds ratios (95% confidence interval) in women were 0.75 (0.55-1.01) for fish intake, 0.66 (0.50-0.89) for EPA, 0.66 (0.49-0.89) for DHA, and 0.71 (0.52-0.95) for EPA + DHA when comparing the highest with the lowest quintiles. Analyses of continuous Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale scores revealed inverse associations with fourth-root-transformed omega-3 variables in women.

CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that dietary intakes of fish and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids may be inversely associated with chronic depressive symptoms in women.