Consuming a healthy balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables can benefit those undergoing treatment for bipolar disorders, a new study suggests.
Bipolar disorder — previously known as ‘manic depression’ — is characterised by episodes of depression and of abnormally elevated mood with periods in between the two extremes.
“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 those who reported a low-quality diet, or a diet including foods that promote inflammation, or who were overweight,” said lead researcher Melanie Ashton of Deakin University in Australia.
The fact that there are two opposite sets of symptoms means that finding an effective treatment is difficult, suggests the study presented at the ECNP Conference in Barcelona.
While current medications are useful, they are better at targeting mania symptoms (the ‘up’ phase), leaving a lack of effective treatment for people experiencing depressive episodes, it added.
For the study, the team involved 133 participants who either took a combination of nutraceuticals (compounds derived from foods such as vitamins or minerals that treat or prevent a disease or disorder) including the anti-inflammatory amino acid n-acetylcysteine (NAC), or NAC alone, or a placebo (a dummy pill) for 16 weeks.
The team measured body mass index (BMI) at the beginning of the study, and then measured depression and how a person is able to function in their day to day life.
The participants filled in a questionnaire about what they usually eat over the year and researchers calculated a diet quality score where good diets included a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables, whereas poorer-quality diets had more saturated fat, refined carbohydrates and alcohol.
“If we can confirm these results, then it is good news for people with bipolar disorder, as there is a great need for better treatments for the depressive phase of bipolar disorder,” Ashton noted.