Patients with bipolar disorder had lower levels of certain omega-3 fatty acids that cross the blood-brain barrier than those without bipolar disorder, a study published in Bipolar Disorders reported. 

Researchers from Penn State College of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health compared fatty acids in patients with symptomatic bipolar disorder (n=27) and healthy controls (n=31). The team measured levels of different forms of omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Patients also reported on fatty acid consumption and bipolar medication use. 

RELATED: Evidence Lacking for Omega-3 Fatty Acid Use in MDD

The analysis showed the ratio of free EPA, a circulating omega-3 fatty acid, to bound EPA was lower in patients with bipolar disorder than others—implying a lower omega-3 availability in these patients. This ratio was associated with clinical bipolar symptoms, especially mania and suicidal tendency. Patients with bipolar disorder did not show altered ratios of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, researchers noted. Patient-reported fatty acid consumption did not differ between bipolar and healthy patients. 

The mechanism in which fatty acids are converted from one form to another differ among patients with bipolar disorder and those who are healthy. Bipolar disorder medications are also known to affect these conversions but no link was found between fatty acid levels or ratios with self-reported medication use in this study. Researchers are studying whether changes in dietary intake of fatty acid can be useful in bipolar disorder. 

For more information visit