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Anti-Inflammatory Diet May Help Mood Disorder Treatment

Results from a small, exploratory study suggest that patients with bipolar disorder experience most positive treatment outcomes when they are eating an anti-inflammatory diet and maintaining a healthy BMI.



October 16, 2018

Data from a recent clinical trial suggests that a low Body Mass Index (BMI) and an anti-inflammatory diet may promote a positive response to add-on nutraceutical treatment for bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is historically difficult to treat because it comprises two diametrically different sets of symptoms. Current medications are more effective for manic symptoms than they are for depressive ones. The diet tested in the study had a positive impact on both sets of bipolar symptoms.

“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,” said Melanie Ashton of Deakin University in Australia, lead researcher.

In the study, 133 participants were randomly assigned either a combination of nutraceutical treatments that included the anti-inflammatory amino acid n-acetylcysteine (NAC), NAC alone, or a placebo. This treatment was received for 16 weeks, in addition to any stable treatments participants were already receiving. Depression and ability to function in day-to-day life were measured at the beginning of the study, as were eating habits. Researchers used the eating habits results to calculate a diet quality score for each participant and categorize their diet as either anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory. BMI was also measured.

Researchers rated participants’ improvement over the course of 16 weeks of treatment or placebo, plus 4 subsequent weeks. They found that those with anti-inflammatory diets or low BMIs demonstrated a better response to add-on nutraceutical treatment than did those with low-quality or pro-inflammatory diets, and those who were overweight.

The results were presented at the 2018 European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ENCP) conference in Barcelona, in a presentation entitled “Diet quality, dietary inflammatory index and body composition as predictors of N-acetylcysteine and mitochondrial agents efficacy in bipolar disorder.”

“What this means, if these results can be repeated in a larger trial, is that treatment for bipolar disorder would need to take into account what a person eats and their weight,” explained Ashton, a doctoral candidate at Deakin’s School of Medicine.

She went on to note that, though the study was a randomized, controlled trial, the outcomes were only exploratory. “Our result is statistically significant, but because the study wasn’t specifically designed to test the effect of diet quality, inflammatory diets, and BMI on drug response in general, it is necessary to see the work replicated in a larger study before any firm conclusions can be found.”

Should the results be successfully replicated in a larger trial, it could mean that the treatment of certain mood disorders would be accompanied by the inclusion of dietary advice.

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