By On October 18th, 2018

Your diet may affect your likelihood of responding to treatment for bipolar disorder

Researchers have found a number of factors that can predict how well an individual may respond to treatment for bipolar disorder, but the majority are issues that are largely out of a person’s control such as their home environment and socioeconomic factors. But, a new study may have found an important aspect that could improve a person’s chances for responding well to treatment.

According to early findings presented at the ECNP Conference in Barcelona, Spain, a person’s weight and overall diet quality responded better to bipolar disorder treatment using nutraceuticals – compounds derived from foods such as vitamins and minerals that treat or prevent a disease or disorder.

Interestingly, the team of researchers led by Melanie Ashton of Deakin University in Australia didn’t set out to examine how weight affected bipolar treatment. The actual goal was to better assess the effectivity of nutraceuticals to treat bipolar disorder. When analyzing the findings, however, they saw that those who had a low BMI (Body Mass Index) and/or maintained a high quality, less inflammatory, diet responded better to add-on nutraceutical treatments.

“If we can confirm these results, then it’s good news for people with Bipolar Disorder, as there is a great need for better treatments for the depressive phase of Bipolar Disorder,” said Ashton.

As her comment suggests, one of the most persistent hurdles in treating bipolar disorder is effectively managing two seemingly opposite sets of symptoms. In bipolar disorder, individuals experience prolonged episodes of intense moods, usually characterized as ‘manic’ episodes and ‘depressive’ episodes.

Current medicines used to treat the disorder tend to be better at managing the manic symptoms, but there is a clear need for better tools to treat the depressive aspects of the disorder.

In the study, 133 participants with bipolar disorder were assigned to take either a combination of nutraceuticals including the anti-inflammatory amino acid n-acetylcysteine (NAC), or a placebo for 16 weeks.

These medications were used in combination with any existing treatment for bipolar disorder a person was already receiving.

The researchers also tracked the participants’ BMI and measures of depression throughout the study, which helped to rate how much a participant was improving.

As part of the study, participants were asked to complete a questionnaire assessing what they typically eat over the course of the year. This was translated into a diet quality score reflecting whether they ate diets with lots of fruit and vegetables or saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol.

The participants’ diets were also rated based on whether it was largely anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory based on how the foods affected inflammation.

Melanie Ashton explained, “We found that people who had a better-quality diet, a diet with anti-inflammatory properties, or a lower BMI, showed better response to add-on nutraceutical treatment than did those who reported a low-quality diet, or a diet including foods that promote inflammation, or who were overweight.”

“What this means, if these results can be repeated in a larger trial,” she continued, “ is that treatment for Bipolar Disorder would need to take into account what a person eats and their weight.”

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