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Original Article
May 1999

Omega 3 Fatty Acids in Bipolar Disorder: A Preliminary Double-blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial

Author Affiliations

From the Psychopharmacology Unit, Division of Psychiatry, Brigham and Women's Hospital (Drs Stoll, Severus, and Freeman, Ms Rueter, and Mr Diamond), and Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School (Drs Stoll and Freeman), Boston, Mass; Free University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany (Dr Severus); and Department of Psychiatry, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Tex (Ms Zboyan and Drs Cress and Marangell). Dr Stoll is now with the Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Mass, and continues with the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1999;56(5):407-412. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.56.5.407

Background  ω3 Fatty acids may inhibit neuronal signal transduction pathways in a manner similar to that of lithium carbonate and valproate, 2 effective treatments for bipolar disorder. The present study was performed to examine whether ω3 fatty acids also exhibit mood-stabilizing properties in bipolar disorder.

Methods  A 4-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, comparing ω3 fatty acids (9.6 g/d) vs placebo (olive oil), in addition to usual treatment, in 30 patients with bipolar disorder.

Results  A Kaplan-Meier survival analysis of the cohort found that the ω3 fatty acid patient group had a significantly longer period of remission than the placebo group (P=.002; Mantel-Cox). In addition, for nearly every other outcome measure, the ω3 fatty acid group performed better than the placebo group.

Conclusion  ω3 Fatty acids were well tolerated and improved the short-term course of illness in this preliminary study of patients with bipolar disorder.