Date of Award

Spring 2020

Project Type


Program or Major

Animal and Nutritional Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Sherman J Bigornia

Second Advisor

Semra Aytur

Third Advisor

Jesse Stabile Morrell


Objectives: The literature on omega-3 fatty acid (FA) intake and depressive symptoms is inconsistent, potentially due in part to the influence of psychosocial stress. Some evidence supports that omega-3 FA intake may have greater benefit on depressive symptoms among individuals with high oxidative stress. We quantified the associations between dietary and plasma omega-3 FA and 6-y depressive symptoms and measured the modifying effect of psychosocial stress.

Methods: Data are from the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (age 48 y, 63% female). At baseline (2008-11), EPA, DHA and omega-3 very-long-chain FAs (VLCFAs) were estimated using two 24-hr recalls and the NCI method. Plasma omega-3 FAs were measured by mass spectrometry. Depressive symptoms were ascertained at baseline and 6-y follow-up with the 10-item Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). Approximately 9 months from baseline, the 10-item Perceived Stress (PSS) and Chronic Burden of Stress scales were obtained. Unstratified and psychosocial stress-stratified associations were analyzed using survey linear regression among those with dietary (n=3537) and plasma (n=718) FA data. Model covariates included, but were not limited to, baseline CES-D score, Hispanic/Latino background, study site, antidepressant use, total energy intake, and dietary or plasma omega-6 FA.

Results: Baseline DHA and omega-3 VLCFA intake were inversely associated with 6-y CES-D (P2 stressors. Plasma omega-3 FAs were not associated with CES-D in PSS stratified and unstratified analyses. However, plasma omega-3 FA were associated with lower CES-D score among those with only 2 chronic stressors.

Conclusions: Dietary omega-3 VLCFAs, but not plasma, were inversely associated with 6-y CES-D. Psychosocial stress did not clearly modify these associations. These results provide some evidence that greater omega-3 VLCFA intake may reduce depressive symptoms among Hispanic/Latino adults. However, considering the limitations of self-reported intake, further research is needed using biomarkers of long-term omega-3 consumption and psychosocial stress to confirm our findings.