It’s been reported by psychiatrists that ethyl-EPA, an Omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil, is a good treatment for bipolar depression. A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry details the positive effects of EPA on the disorder and its ability to ease the symptoms.
Bipolar depression involves periods of mania alternating with periods of depression. These periods can last for weeks or years. Most patients find the depressive episodes most hard to deal with, and research has found that the depressive part of the disorder is also the hardest to treat effectively. There has been increased interest in the potential of Omega-3 fatty acids to help in these cases. A Harvard University team reported on this in 1999, and ever since other scientists have been looking into the positive effects of EPA on bipolar depression.
An Institute of Psychiatry study tested EPA on 75 bipolar out-patients, of both sexes between the ages of 18 and 70. Some received EPA, in a light dose or heavier dose, while others received placebos. They found that the benefits of the light dose were just as significant as those with a heavier dose. The EPA didn’t seem to have severe side effects beside some stomach ache, and it did not induce mania. There was some improvement in depression compared with the placebo group.
EPA, according to the authors of the study, may act on the nervous system by binding to receptors. This leads to the release of ‘second messenger’ molecules, whose knock-on effect brings about an altered state in the neuron. This means EPA has a similar effect to that of the mood stabilising drugs which bipolar patients usually rely on. The authors of the study conclude that further work is necessary to establish the benefits and possible side-effects of EPA, but they are optimistic they will find EPA is a safe and beneficial anti-depressant compound which may be more agreeable to patients than the usual drugs available.