A new clinical trial finds that a patient’s weight and overall quality of diet, including the consumption of anti-inflammatory foods, can affect his or her response to a particular type of supplemental treatment for bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by episodes of manic highs and depressive lows. Although current bipolar medications are useful, they are better at targeting symptoms of mania rather than depressive symptoms.
Now a team of Australian, German and American scientists have shown that patients who consume a high quality diet — including fewer inflammatory foods — and/or have a low BMI (body mass index) appear to respond better to an add-on nutraceutical treatment which was provided as part of the clinical trial.
Nutraceuticals include compounds derived from foods such as vitamins or minerals that can help treat or prevent a disease or disorder.
“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 lead researcher Melanie Ashton of Deakin University in Australia.
A total of 133 participants were randomly assigned to take a combination of nutraceuticals, including the anti-inflammatory amino acid n-acetylcysteine (NAC), or NAC alone, or a placebo for 16 weeks.
Patients were given nutraceuticals in addition to any mood-stabilizing treatments they were already taking. Researchers measured BMI at the beginning of the study, and then measured depression and how each patient was able to function in their day to day life.
Researchers also rated whether a participant was improving and, if so, how much, over the next 20 weeks.
Participants completed diet questionnaires which allowed researchers to calculate a diet quality score — good diets included healthy foods with lots of fruit and vegetables, whereas poorer-quality diets had more saturated fat, refined carbohydrates and alcohol. The diets were then categorized as either anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory based on foods known to affect inflammation.
“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,” Ashton said.
“There are some points we need to note about this study. This is a randomized, controlled trial, but what we found were exploratory outcomes; in other words, it wasn’t the main result that we were testing. Our result is statistically significant, but because the study wasn’t specifically designed to test the effect of diet quality,”
The new findings were presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) Conference in Barcelona, Spain.