QUESTION:

Dear Dr. Heller,

My daughter’s psychiatrist recently diagnosed her with bipolar disorder and put her on flax seed oil pills (6/grams daily), along with Paxil (10mg). She said the clinical studies proved it was just as effective as depakote. Do you agree? Thanks for your advice.

ANSWER:

No!!!!! According to Drs. Papolos in “The Bipolar Child” book (page 109), neither flax seed oil (which can trigger hypomania) nor cod liver oil (toxic in high doses) should be used. The “omega-3 fatty acids” from concentrated fish oils do work. Studies at Harvard show they can help – especially with rapidly cycling children. These studies were “double blinded” – meaning neither the doctors nor the patients (or parents) knew who was taking the oils and who was taking placebo. There is good science behind taking these oils, and a proposed mechanism of action does exist. It would be interesting to see if there is a direct correlation between bipolar and consumption of fish that have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

The dose is unclear, but likely between 5 and 10 grams daily. While omega-3 fatty acids are considered non-toxic, it is recommended that antioxidants should also be taken. The dose is controversial. Drs. Papolos recommend 400iu’s of vitamin E and 600mg of vitamin C. The exact doses of vitamin E that are necessary is unclear, as high doses may be toxic and it’s unclear what doses children actually need. The recommendations for vitamin C have dropped recently, particularly in view of reports of increased coronary artery toxicity from taking mild supplementation of vitamin C. Dr. Andrew Weil, author of “Spontaneous Healing” and other books and Newsletters, has lowered his vitamin C recommendation down to 500mg daily.

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