Omega 3 fatty acids may be beneficial for more than just the heart. Research at the Indiana University School of Medicine disclosed a potential therapeutic benefit between these dietary supplements, alcohol abuse, and psychiatric disorders.
Researchers showed conclusive behavioral and molecular benefits for omega 3 fatty acid given to mice models of bipolar disorder. The fatty acid DHA, one of the main active ingredients in fish oil, “normalized their behavior,” says Alexander B. Niculescu, MD, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry.
Using a stress-sensitive mouse model of bipolar disorder developed in his lab, Niculescu and colleagues studied 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,” says 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.”
An unexpected finding of the research was the discovery that the mice given DHA also showed a reduced desire for alcohol. “The mice on DHA drank much less; it curtailed their alcohol abusive behavior,” he notes. 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 says.
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,” says Niculescu.
The study was published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.
Release Date: May 25, 2011
Source: Indiana University School of Medicine