Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw's®
Life Extension NewsTM
Vol. II, No. 6, October 1999

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS IN MANIC DEPRESSION
Omega-3 fatty acids (long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids found in cold-water fish oils and in certain plants) are associated with a general dampening of signal-transduction pathways associated with the arachidonic acid cascade and other systems. The authors of a new study1 hypothesized that omega-3 fatty acids would exhibit inhibitory effects on signal-transduction mechanisms in human neuronal membranes and that high-dose supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids might be an effective mood stabilizer in bipolar disorder (manic depression).

In a four-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, omega-3 fatty acids (9.6 g/d) were compared with placebo (olive oil) in 30 patients with bipolar disorder. (Subjects received a total daily omega-3 fatty acid dosage of 6.2 g of eicosapentaenoic acid and 3.4 g of docosahexaenoic acid.) Note: This is a pharmacological dose, much greater than the usual 1-2 grams per day taken by healthy individuals as a dietary supplement. One reason the authors mention for using this much is that there is a lack of data regarding the effective dosage of omega-3 fatty acids in mood disorders, and they didn't want to risk choosing a potentially ineffective low dose. They also note that similar doses have been used safely and effectively in other disease states (no particular disease states were mentioned).

The omega-3 fatty acid-treated group had a significantly longer period of remission from their symptoms as compared to the placebo group.

One problem was that, because of the fishy aftertaste (or fishy burps), 86% of the omega-3 fatty acids-treated group guessed that they were receiving active treatment, while 63% of the placebo group guessed correctly.

1. Stoll et al, "Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Bipolar Disorder, a Preliminary Double-blind, Placebo Controlled Trial," Arch. Gen. Psychiatry 56:407-412 (1999).


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