In the world of internet success stories, few industries are as lucrative supplement industry. On the internet you can buy supplements that claim to improve mental health, reduce risk of cancer, improve your libido, help cure psychological disorders and more (really, the only limit is your ability to think of something that needs fixing).
Omega-3 fatty acids are a naturally occurring fats found most-often in fish and some vegetables. They are purported to have many positive health effects ranging from improved cognitive aging, reduced inflammation and even helping to prevent cardiovascular disease. Unlike many supplements sold, omega-3 fatty acids have been studied in-depth. There is some evidence that another benefit to omega 3 fatty acids is as a potential alternative treatment to bipolar disorder.
Traditional treatment of bipolar disorder has historically been the ingestion lithium salts. The mood-stabilizing effects of lithium are well accepted. This powerful drug, while very effective, does tend to come with some unfortunate side effects.
These include everything from tremors and a ‘dazed’ feeling to potential birth defects when exposed in utero as well as potential negative long-term effects for those it is prescribed to. Furthermore, lithium is highly potent and risk of overdose is severe (and it’s impacts, when not fatal, can be long-lasting).
As effective as lithium can be for those with mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder, alternatives would be welcomed and although there have been many alternatives developed in the last 50 years, these too come with their own side effects.
Enter Omega 3 Fatty Acids?
Fortunately, evidence suggests that Omega 3 Fatty Acids, among their many other purported benefits, also have a mood-stabilizing effect for patients suffering from bipolar disorder. A double-blind, placebo study indicates that patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder show signs of mood-related improvement over a 4 month period while administered omega-3 fatty acids.
The omega 3 fatty acids were administered twice daily, a randomly selected control group received identical looking capsules of olive oil. Because of the safety of these substances, relatively high doses were used to avoid dosage that would be below an effective amount. Over the course of the study, a significant portion of the experimental group showed signs of improvement in their disorder.
Although the effects were small and the research needs to be further investigated, the possibility that a relatively harmless and naturally occurring supplement can help stabilize individuals with mood disorders is exciting. If nothing else, it is another promising reason to purchase omega 3 fatty acid supplements or at least increase your intake of fish high in omega-3s, such as salmon.
If you would like to find out more about how omega-3 fatty acids can help people with bipolar disorder, then please watch this video: