A new study indicates that the omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) can markedly reduce symptoms of depression in bipolar patients without precipitating mania.
Yamima Osher and colleagues administered 1.5 to 2 grams of EPA per day for up to six months to patients with bipolar disorder, and report, "Eight of the ten patients who completed at least one month of follow-up achieved a 50 percent or greater reduction in Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression scores within one month." None of the patients developed mania, a problem that often occurs when lithium—the standard treatment for bipolar disorder—is used. One patient developed suicidal behavior, but the researchers note that this is not uncommon in patients recovering from depression.
Osher et al. note that their study was small and unblinded and did not include severely depressed patients, but the researchers conclude, "Although the ultimate utility of omega-3 fatty acids in bipolar depression is still an open question, we believe that these initial results are encouraging and justify the continuing exploration of its use. This study suggests that EPA omega oil may be a safe, efficacious, and well- tolerated compound especially useful in the treatment of mild to moderate bipolar depression."
"Omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid in bipolar depression: report of a small open-label study," Y. Osher, Y. Bersudsky, and R. H. Belmaker, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Vol. 66, No. 6, June 2005, 726-9. Address: Yamima Osher, Beer Sheva Mental Health Center, P.O. Box 4600, Beer Sheva, Israel, email@example.com.