According to a recent study bipolar disorder may be linked with having low levels of specific Omega 3 fatty acids which are able to cross the blood brain barrier. Pennsylvania State College of Medicine researchers, together with National Institutes of Health investigators, believe that the study results could lead to effective dietary interventions for this mental health disorder. It is too soon for investigators to understand whether there is a cause and effect between these two factors or if the link between Omega 3 fatty acids and bipolar disorder simply shows that those with this disorder convert Omega 3’s at a lower or different rate than individuals without bipolar. These fatty acids have a large biological significance in the way that the brain functions. Studies in the past have shown that many with unipolar depression can benefit from more of these fatty acids but the results with bipolar disorder have not been as clear.
Pennsylvania State College of Medicine psychiatry chair, associate professor, and bipolar disorder and omega 3 fatty acids study leader Dr. Erika Saunders explained the findings. “This means that the availability of omega-3 in the body is lower in bipolar subjects. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can shift the balance of inflammation, which we think is important in bipolar disorder. We are actively pursuing the next step in this line of inquiry to get to the point where we know what changes in diets are going to help people with bipolar disorder so they can have another option beyond the medications that are currently available. I think our work, along with the work of others, shows that this is an important area for us to continue to study. It’s complicated and hard to study, and there are a lot of factors, but it’s an area we need to keep pursuing.”