Diets and bipolar disorder
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Diets and bipolar disorder

Q: MY QUESTION IS MY WIFE IS ON THE ATKINS DIET AND SHE DOES NOT EAT CARBOHYDRATES WHICH CARRY FATTY ACIDS THAT ARE REQUIRED FOR CHEMICAL BALANCE. IS THIS DIET AFFECTING HER BIPOLAR DISORDER?

Dear John --
Sorry, you'd think by now I'd be familiar with the Atkins diet.  So I can't comment on that directly.  Problem is, no one has clearly shown diet to be involved in bipolar disorder (either cause or treatment), with the exception of a single study linking omega-3 fatty acids to improvement.  That study hasn't been repeated yet, and my patients who tried it (lots and lots of fish oil pills) didn't see any effect at all.

So, so far I'm pretty skeptical about any clear diet role in this illness.  There are people reporting things that may turn out to be important in the future: inositol, choline,  and even a supplement of trace minerals and vitamins (this latter may be the biggest deal since lithium, some people think: but nothing solid to go on so far).

Therefore we couldn't say she's on something that will hurt her bipolar control.  It could as likely help by changing insulin balance -- there's too much we don't know in this area.  Sorry to say.

Dr. Phelps



P.S. "CARBOHYDRATES WHICH CARRY FATTY ACIDS THAT ARE REQUIRED FOR CHEMICAL BALANCE" is another example of something we actually don't really know, by the way:  we don't know what fatty acids are "required" (and carbohydrates, as you probably know, aren't "carriers" of fatty acids as such) for "balance", because we don't know what "balance" really is.


Published November, 2000

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