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Depression, Bipolar Disorder and Omega 3

More than 20 million children and adults in the U.S. are affected by major depression or bipolar disorder, and depression has been shown to be a leading cause of disability worldwide. In recognition of the scope and burden of these serious medical illnesses, The National Institute of Mental Health, (NIMH), a U.S. Government Agency, launched a major effort to assess our current knowledge and to plan a course of research that will move the Nation ahead in answering unsolved questions related to mood disorders.

To accomplish the task of reviewing the science and recommending how to spur scientific progress, NIMH convened nine scientific workgroups in January 2001. The groups spanned the breadth of the relevant science, from genetics to clinical trials and psychosocial interventions, to research that examines the service system and obstacles to care. The workgroups were comprised of nationally recognized scientific experts, members of the National Advisory Mental Health Council, representatives of consumer and advocacy groups, and NIMH staff.

One of the experts writing and speaking on this subject was Joseph R. Hibbeln, M.D. who wrote the following article on March 8, 2002 on Omega 3 and its protective role as a potential treatment for borderline personality disorders.

Emerging protective roles for omega-3 fatty acids in affective and aggressive disorders. A potential treatment for borderline personality disorders?

Recent data from epidemiological studies and placebo controlled intervention trials in affective and aggressive disorders suggest that omega-3 essential fatty acids may have a role in the therapy of borderline personality disorder since these conditions have several common features. Although the idea that the dietary intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids could be efficacious in this disorder may seem unusual, it should be pointed out that their importance have already been widely recognized in major illnesses including heart disease, cancers, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. Despite the observation that the majority of the brain is comprised of lipids and fatty acids, the examination of the role of lipids and fatty acids in psychiatric disorders is still in its infancy. Of particular interest are two polyunsaturated essential fatty acids: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA), which are selectively concentrated in synaptic neuronal membranes and thought to be necessary for optimal neurodevelopment. These fatty acids, and their precursors, cannot be made de novo and are available only from dietary sources such as seafood, which is a rich source of DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Disorders with affective and/or impulsive features appear to be responsive to greater omega-3 fatty acid intake. In cross-national analyses, greater seafood consumption has been associated with lower prevalence rates of major depression across a 50-fold range, lower prevalence rates of bipolar disorders across a 30-fold range, and lower rates of homicide mortality across a 20-fold range. Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of mixtures of DHA and EPA or of EPA alone have documented robust responses in bipolar disorder, treatment resistant depression (two trials) and in reducing measures of hostility and aggression. Since patients with borderline personality disorder frequently have concurrent affective and impulsive features, but respond poorly to most medications, omega-3 fatty acids can be explored as a potential treatment alternative.

Signs and symptoms of depression (or a depressive episode) include:

• Lasting sad, anxious, or empty mood • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, including sex • Decreased energy, a feeling of fatigue or of being "slowed down" • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions • Restlessness or irritability • Sleeping too much, or can't sleep • Change in appetite and/or unintended weight loss or gain • Chronic pain or other persistent bodily symptoms that are not caused by physical illness or injury • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts

A depressive episode is diagnosed if 5 or more of these symptoms last most of the day, nearly every day, for a period of 2 weeks or longer.

Descriptions offered by people with bipolar disorder give valuable insights into the various mood states associated with the illness:

Depression: "I doubt completely my ability to do anything well. It seems as though my mind has slowed down and burned out to the point of being virtually useless…. [I am] haunt[ed]… with the total, the desperate hopelessness of it all…. Others say, "It's only temporary, it will pass, you will get over it," but of course they haven't any idea of how I feel, although they are certain they do. If I can't feel, move, think or care, then what on earth is the point?"

Hypomania: "At first when I'm high, it's tremendous… ideas are fast… like shooting stars you follow until brighter ones appear…. All shyness disappears, the right words and gestures are suddenly there… uninteresting people, things become intensely interesting. Sensuality is pervasive, the desire to seduce and be seduced is irresistible. Your marrow is infused with unbelievable feelings of ease, power, well-being, omnipotence, euphoria… you can do anything… but, somewhere this changes. Mania: The fast ideas become too fast and there are far too many… overwhelming confusion replaces clarity… you stop keeping up with it—memory goes. Infectious humor ceases to amuse. Your friends become frightened…. everything is now against the grain… you are irritable, angry, frightened, uncontrollable, and trapped."

TO SUM UP: Essential fatty acids are critical components of synaptic membranes. Data suggesting efficacy in Omega 3 treatment in numerous psychiatric disorders has been emerging worldwide. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are being studied to determine their usefulness, alone and when added to conventional medications, for long-term treatment of bipolar disorder.

For more information and complete label copy on the Omega 3 supplement that we sell, please "click" on the Omega 3 link.


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