Results from an Italian study show that plasma levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are significantly lower in patients with bipolar disorder than in mentally healthy individuals.
However, plasma levels of other fatty acids appear to be increased in bipolar disorder patients.
Writing in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, Massimiliano Pomponi (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Rome) and team say that "DHA may provide a basis for possible pharmacological intervention in psychiatric disorders."
The researchers used gas chromatography/mass spectrometry to analyze fasting blood samples collected from 42 patients with bipolar disorder and 57 age- and gender-matched mentally healthy individuals (controls) for levels of 15 fatty acids.
All of the participants had a typical Mediterranean-style diet that is high in levels of root vegetables, green vegetables, fruit, fish, poultry, and olive oil, the team notes.
The team found that median DHA levels were a significant 53.7% lower in bipolar disorder patients than controls, at 47.7 versus 102.9 µmol/L.
The difference in DHA levels between the two groups remained significant after accounting for age, gender, and smoking.
Conversely, plasma levels of other fatty acids were significantly increased in bipolar disorder patients compared with controls. For example, arachidonic acid levels were increased by 35.3%, at 928.8 versus 686.6 µmol/L, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) levels by 300.0%, at 220.7 versus 55.2 µmol/L, and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) levels by 89.3%, at 82.8 versus 43.7 µmol/L, in bipolar disorder patients compared with controls, respectively.
Pomponi and team write: "Our data strongly suggest that plasma DHA levels are frequently depleted in patients with bipolar disorder, although it is still unclear whether this alteration contributes to the psychiatric disorder. Indeed, it might also be a consequence of the disease and/or its pharmacological treatment (via inhibition of peroxisomal transport and/or peroxisomal oxidation)."
They conclude: "The role of DHA, as adjuvant, might be considered of possible use."
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