Food and Behaviour Research

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Omega 3 fatty acids in bipolar disorder: a preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled trial

Stoll AL, Severus WE, Severus WE, Rueter S, Zboyan HA, Diamond E, Cress KK, Marangell LB.  (1999) Archives of General Psychiatry 56 (5) 507-12 

Web URL: Licensed users of Am J Psychiat can view this paper here


BACKGROUND: Omega3 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 omega3 fatty acids also exhibit mood-stabilizing properties in bipolar disorder.

METHODS: A 4-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, comparing omega3 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 omega3 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 omega3 fatty acid group performed better than the placebo group.

CONCLUSION: Omega3 fatty acids were well tolerated and improved the short-term course of illness in this preliminary study of patients with bipolar disorder.


The success of this pilot study has led to larger trials of treatment with omega-3 fatty acids in bipolar disorder, although results from these are not yet published.

Meanwhile, more detailed information on this topic can be found elsewhere on this website, including