Objective. Omega–3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) were tested in adolescent depression and in several neurodevelopmental disorders with partial success. Anorexia nervosa (AN) is characterised by deficiencies in fatty food intake and frequent comorbidity, including depressive and cognitive symptoms. Thus supplementation with PUFAs may be beneficial in this group of patients. The aim of the study was to assess whether PUFAs as an add-on treatment is associated with better improvement of body mass index (BMI) and psychopathological symptoms than placebo in patients with AN.
Method. 61 female adolescent inpatients with AN were randomly allocated to omega–3 PUFAs supplementation or placebo for 10 weeks. Patients also participated in the behavioural programme and eclectic psychotherapy (treatment as usual, TAU). At baseline and follow-up visits, patients’ BMI and psychopathology were assessed with Clinical Global Impression Scale (CGI), Patient Global Impression Scale (PGI), and Eating Attitude Test (EAT-26).
Results. After 10 weeks, both groups showed improvement in all parameters. Improvement in CGI scores was observed greater in placebo vs. PUFA-s group (p = 0.015) while other differences were not statistically significant. Omega–3 PUFAs supplementation appears not to be effective as an add-on treatment in inpatient adolescent girls with anorexia nervosa.
Conclusions. The results should be analysed with caution due to small sample size and heterogeneity in TAU. As the TAU turned out to be highly effective, additional therapeutic effect of PUFA might not be visible. Nevertheless, that does not explain the tendency for better improvement in the placebo group.