News & Perspectives

Fish Oils May Benefit Manic Depression

What the Study Showed
According to this 1999 Harvard study, fish oil supplements helped modify the mood swings characteristic of patients suffering from manic depression, which is also known as bipolar disorder.

How It Was Done
For four months, 30 patients suffering from bipolar disorder took daily supplements of fish oil (containing 6.2 grams EPA and 3.4 grams DHA, two key omega-3 fatty acids) or a placebo containing olive oil. The supplements taken were in combination with their usual therapy, such as the drug
lithium. In addition standard psychological tests were administered at the beginning of the study, four times during the course of the study and at the end of the four months.

Why It's Important
Previous studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids possess the ability to dampen the signaling between the nerve cells, which can be hyperactive in bipolar patients. How fatty acids do this is not clear. Scientists speculate that as the omega-3s get incorporated into cell membranes they can alter the physical and chemical properties of the membranes, including those of nerve cells. According to the researchers: "Omega-3 fatty acids may prove to be efficacious, well-tolerated, inexpensive and desirable mood stabilizing compounds."

Additional Findings
The fish oil group had a significantly longer period of remission from symptoms than the placebo group did. In addition, the patients taking fish oil supplements did better on various psychological tests concerning both depression and mania.

Date Published: 01/14/2000
> Printer-friendly Version Return to Top