Nutrition Research Reviews

Research Article

Is there a role for n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in the regulation of mood and behaviour? A review of the evidence to date from epidemiological studies, clinical studies and intervention trials

K. M. Appletona1 c1, P. J. Rogersa2 and A. R. Nessa3

a1 School of Psychology, Queen's University of Belfast, Belfast BT9 5BP, UK

a2 Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1TU, UK

a3 Department of Oral and Dental Science, University of Bristol, Bristol BS1 2LY, UK


Selected biochemical evidence suggests a potential role for n-3 long-chain PUFA (n-3PUFA) in the regulation of mood and behaviour. The present paper reviews the relevant evidence, to date, from epidemiological studies, clinical studies and intervention trials. Most evidence is available investigating a role for n-3PUFA in depression, depressive illness and suicidal behaviour, but work is also available on anxiety and anxiety-related disorders, fatigue and fatigue-related disorders, aggression, hostility and anti-social behaviour, inattention, impulsivity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and schizophrenic disorders. For all these aspects of mood and behaviour, the evidence available is currently limited and highly inconsistent, both in terms of study methodology and study findings. There is a clear need for further work in this area.


c1 Corresponding author: Dr K. M. Appleton, fax +44 28 9066 4144, email


Abbreviations: ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; ALA, α-linolenic acid; E-EPA, EPA ethyl ester; 5-HT, 5-hydroxytryptamine; n-3PUFA, n-3 long-chain PUFA; n-6PUFA, n-6 long-chain PUFA