Omega-6 fatty acids may reduce bipolar disorder risk

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A recent study from the University of South Australia, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, suggests that omega-6 fatty acids, commonly found in foods like eggs, poultry, and seafood, may help reduce the risk of bipolar disorder.

The study utilized Mendelian randomization, a method that helps determine causal relationships between traits, to analyze 913 metabolites in 14,296 Europeans. The findings highlighted 33 metabolites, mostly lipids, that were associated with the risk of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a significant mental health issue characterized by extreme mood swings, including episodes of mania and depression.

It is known to be highly heritable, with a child having a 1 in 10 chance of developing the disorder if a parent is affected. Around 3% of Australians over the age of 16 live with bipolar disorder, reflecting a broader global pattern of mental health challenges.

Dr. David Stacey, the chief investigator of the study, emphasized the potential for new lifestyle or dietary interventions based on these findings. He noted that metabolites, especially those involving lipids, play a crucial role in psychiatric disorders.

The research showed that a genetic predisposition to higher levels of lipids containing arachidonic acid correlates with a lower risk of developing bipolar disorder. Conversely, lower levels of this acid are linked to a higher risk.

Arachidonic acid is not only consumed directly through meat and seafood but can also be synthesized from dietary linoleic acid found in nuts, seeds, and oils.

It’s also a critical component of human milk, essential for infant brain development, and is commonly added to infant formulas to ensure optimal neurological growth.

The study opens the door to the possibility of using supplements to increase arachidonic acid levels in individuals at risk of bipolar disorder.

However, Dr. Stacey pointed out the need for caution, as it’s still unclear at what stage of life—whether perinatally, in early childhood, or later—supplementation would be most effective, or if it would benefit those already diagnosed with the disorder.

Professor Elina Hyppönen, a co-author of the study, stressed the need for more detailed research. She suggested that preclinical studies and randomized controlled trials are necessary to explore the preventative and therapeutic potential of arachidonic acid supplements fully.

These future studies will be crucial in determining how arachidonic acid might be used in precision health interventions, particularly for early-life nutrition to support brain development and potentially mitigate the risk of bipolar disorder.

As the research progresses, understanding the specific mechanisms by which arachidonic acid impacts bipolar disorder will be key to developing targeted interventions that could significantly improve the lives of those at risk or already affected by this challenging condition.

If you care about nutrition, please read studies that ultra-processed foods may make you feel depressed, and Vitamin D could help reduce depression symptoms.

For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce the risk of dementia, and Omega-3 supplements could improve memory functions in older people.

The research findings can be found in Biological Psychiatry.

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