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Depression and anxiety are the most common mood disorders we are currently experiencing. Researchers at Indiana University have found that a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids may help the treatment and prevention of bipolar disorder and may also help with alcoholism.

According to the study’s lead author  Alexander B. Niculescu, MD an associate professor of psychiatry Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, the mice used in the study have characteristic bipolar symptoms, including being depressed and, when exposed to stress, becoming manic.

The fatty acid DHA, one of the main active ingredients in fish oil, "normalized their behavior," Niculescu said.

"The mice that were given DHA normalized their behavior, they are not depressed and when subjected to stress, they do not become manic," Niculescu said in a statement. "When we looked into their brains, using comprehensive gene expression studies, we were surprised to see that genes that are known targets of psychiatric medications were modulated and normalized by DHA."

Other Omega 3 Fatty Acid Benefits

Omega 3 fatty acids may be beneficial for more than just the heart. Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine have found at a molecular level a potential therapeutic benefit from these dietary supplements for treating alcohol abuse and psychiatric disorders.

In a study, conducted over several years,  researchers showed conclusive behavioral and molecular benefits for omega 3 fatty acid given to mice models of bipolar disorder. The fatty acid DHA, a primary,  active ingredients in fish oil, "normalized their behavior," according to Alexander B. Niculescu, M.D., Ph.D.,  The study was reported online in the Nature Publishing Group journal Translational Psychiatry.

Dr. Niculescu and his colleagues, used a stress-sensitive mouse model of bipolar disorder developed in his lab, evaluated the influence of dietary DHA. The mice have characteristic bipolar symptoms including being depressed and, when subjected to stress, becoming manic.

"The mice that were given DHA normalized their behavior, they are not depressed and when subjected to stress, they do not become manic," said Dr. Niculescu. "When we looked into their brains, using comprehensive gene expression studies, we were surprised to see that genes that are known targets of psychiatric medications were modulated and normalized by DHA."

Very surprisingly, the study found that DHA also significantly lowered the desire for alcohol.

"These bipolar mice, like some bipolar patients, love alcohol. The mice on DHA drank much less; it curtailed their alcohol abusive behavior," Niculescu said. "There is now substantial evidence at the molecular level that omega-3 fatty acids work on the brain in ways similar to psychiatric drugs."

"These bipolar mice, like some bipolar patients, love alcohol. The mice on DHA drank much less; it stopped curtailed their alcohol abusive behavior," he said, adding that this is a completely new finding. To verify this finding, the researchers studied another well-established animal model of alcoholism, the alcohol preferring P rats, and obtained similar results.

“We believe a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids may help the treatment and prevention of bipolar disorder, and may help with alcoholism as well," he said.

The researchers also found correlations between mouse brain molecular changes and molecular markers in their blood, so called "biomarkers."

"There is now substantial evidence at the molecular level that omega-3 fatty acids work on the brain in ways similar to psychiatric drugs," said Dr. Niculescu. "With these biomarker findings, we can now move forward as a field and do more targeted clinical studies in humans."

Omega 3 fatty acids are known to be good for one's health, good for one's brain, and lack major side-effects, as opposed to some psychiatric medications, he said. Perhaps, he said, omega 3 fatty acid could in the future be used as an adjuvant treatment to minimize the amount of psychiatric drugs needed to produce the same effect, especially in pregnant women or women who intend to get pregnant.

"A lot more work needs to be done in this area," Dr. Niculescu said.

Source:

The findings are published in the Journal Translational Psychiatry.

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