Saunders 2016: Reconsidering dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids in bipolar disorder: A translational picture

masksThe Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2016 Oct;77(10): e1342-e1347

Drugs used for bipolar disorder often work by down-regulating the brain metabolism of a long-chain omega-6 (or n-6) essential fatty acid called arichidonic acid (AA).  The shorter-chain omega-6 (or n-6) essential fatty acid, called linoleic acid, is common in the diet of most people, and has greatly increased during the past century.  It is the precursor of AA, and causes an increase in inflammation.

A number of studies have found abnormalities in the n-6 and n-3 pathways in bipolar disorder, but studies adding omega-3 (as fish oil or flax seed oil, for example), are often disappointing. The authors believe that it may not be enough to add omega-3 unless the omega-6 is also reduced in the diet.  This was done in a recent study of migraine, very successfully. The authors recommend developing research strategies to test such dietary changes in bipolar disorder for mood stabilization.

QUOTE:  “On the basis of the reviewed evidence, we propose that dietary maniopulation combining high n-3 PUFA with low n-6 PUFA should be tested as an adjunct to traditional mood-stabilizing medications in future clinical trials, rather than using a simple high n-3 PUFA-containing diet”


  1. “n-6 PUFA” and “omega 6” are the same thing,
  2. The Feingold Diet itself does not control omega-3 and omega-6 consumption, yet it is often reported to improve symptoms of both migraine and bipolar.  Perhaps the choosing of less processed foods tends to lower the intake of omega-6?  Or perhaps avoiding the additives improves the pathways that handle them?  We hope future research will take that into consideration, as well.

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