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01-03-2012 | Mental health | Article

Omega-3 supplements may help reduce bipolar depression symptoms


Free abstract

MedWire News: Results from a systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials support the adjuvant use of omega-3 supplements in the treatment of bipolar depression, but not mania.

"Dozens of clinical trials to date have been conducted on omega-3 and unipolar depression, in addition to notable reviews and meta-analyses," observe Jerome Sarris (University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) and team.

"However… literature in the specific area of omega-3 for treatment of bipolar depression or mania is sparse."

Furthermore, they add that "to date, a specific meta-analysis in this area has not been published."

Sarris et al therefore searched the literature for randomized controlled studies, with a duration of at least 4 weeks and involving more than 10 patients, of omega-3 supplements (fish oil, eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid, or flaxseed oil [alpha-linolenic acid]) for the treatment of bipolar depression or mania.

In all, six studies involving a total of 291 participants met criteria for inclusion in the meta-analysis. Mean trial length was 12.6 weeks, and the mean number of participants in each trial was 37.8.

The outcome measures used for depression were the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, the Children's Depression Rating Scale, and the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology-Clinician Rated, while the outcome measure used for mania was the Young Mania Rating Scale.

Regarding bipolar depression, pooled data from five studies revealed that treatment with omega-3 was associated with a significant reduction in symptoms, with a moderate effect size of 0.34.

For bipolar mania, pooled data from five studies revealed a nonsignificant reduction in symptoms associated with omega-3 treatment, with an effect size of 0.20.

Sarris and team conclude in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry: "Although the weight of evidence does not currently support adjuvant use of omega-3 for mania, meta-analytic evidence strongly supports the use of omega-3 for adjuvant use in the treatment of depressed mood in bipolar disorder.

"Given the health benefits and safety, omega-3 deserves greater attention and wider application. There is a pressing need for further research to establish optimum formulation and dosage for omega-3."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Mark Cowen

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