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Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Play Role in Bipolar Disorder

Researchers hope to learn whether they can benefit patients with the mental illness

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MONDAY, Dec. 7, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- There may be a link between levels of omega-3 fatty acids and bipolar disorder, according to a small study published in the November issue of Bipolar Disorders.

Researchers compared 27 people with bipolar disorder and 31 people without the mental illness. The team determined plasma concentrations of five polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) (linoleic acid, arachidonic acid, alpha-linolenic acid [ALA], docosahexaenoic acid [DHA], and eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA]), two saturated fatty acids (palmitic acid and stearic acid) and two monounsaturated fatty acids (palmitoleic acid and oleic acid) in esterified (E) and unesterified (UE) forms.

In exploratory comparison, the researchers found lower UE:E EPA in the bipolar disorder group than the healthy controls group (P < 0.0001), and, at follow-up in the bipolar disorder group, UE, E DHA:ALA, and UE EPA:ALA were lower (P < 0.002). The team also found that mania severity and suicidality were positively correlated with UE:E EPA ratio, and several plasma levels and ratios correlated with panic disorder and psychosis.

"Altered n-3 PUFA ratios could indicate changes in PUFA metabolism concurrent with symptom improvement," the authors write. "Our findings are consistent with preclinical and postmortem data and suggest testing interventions that increase n-3 and decrease n-6 dietary PUFA intake."

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