Dr. Roger McIntyre and his research team from the University of Toronto combined and analyzed the data of 19 previous research studies from 13 countries to examine the association between bipolar disorder and metabolic syndrome.
They discovered that the rate of metabolic syndrome in patients with bipolar disorder was twice as high as in the general population. In addition, bipolar patients with metabolic syndrome often had more complicated metabolic and cardiac problems, more adverse outcomes, and responded less well to treatment.
McIntyre found that metabolic syndrome also complicates mental health issues, worsens depression, and even increases the rate of suicide.
One conclusion McIntyre and his team drew from their results was a recommendation that psychiatrists, as they may be the only physicians a bipolar patient sees regularly, can screen annually for metabolic syndrome by checking blood pressure and a fasting blood sugar, then referring patients who are at higher risk.
Metabolic syndrome is also known as metabolic syndrome X, or insulin resistance syndrome, conditions include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, low blood levels of HDL (the good type of fat,) high blood levels of triglycerides (one of the not-so-good types of fat,) and an increased waistline, especially in proportion to the rest of the body. Those with metabolic syndrome are not only more likely to suffer heart attacks and other severe complications, but often lose many years of life.
Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric condition with symptoms including alternating periods of depression and mania, where patients experience a period of time with elevated mood, irritability, or impulsivity.
An association between mental illness and metabolic syndrome has been noted in the past, particularly in schizophrenia. Experts have debated whether there is some type of biological factor that puts individuals at risk for both conditions, or if there is something about metabolic syndrome itself that predisposes or actually causes mental health issues.
Some of the psychological factors associated with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia such as anger, anxiety, and stress may put an individual at risk for weight gain and other metabolic problems. In addition, many psychiatric medications such as certain classes of antidepressants and antipsychotics can have side effects including elevated blood sugars, weight gain and increased blood pressure.
Further research focusing on unraveling the complicated relationship between metabolic disorders and psychiatric conditions may help to develop earlier effective interventions.
Source: Journal of Affective Disorders