Topic Overview

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in marine or plant sources, such as fish oil and flaxseed oil. A few studies suggest that adding omega-3 fatty acids to medicine (such as lithium) can help reduce the depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder in some people. Omega-3 fatty acids don't seem to have any effect on the manic symptoms of bipolar disorder. And omega-3 fatty acids alone are not a good treatment for bipolar disorder. They are not a replacement for medicine or other therapy used to treat bipolar disorder.footnote 1, footnote 2

There are few, if any, negative side effects of taking omega-3 fatty acids. Loose stools were reported most often. Researchers think that omega-3 fatty acids help support the membranes of brain cells, making it easier for them to send signals to one another, which may reduce the likelihood of depressive symptoms.footnote 1



  1. Montgomery P, Richardson AJ (2009). Omega-3 fatty acids for bipolar disorder. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1).
  2. Sarris J, et al. (2012). Omega-3 for bipolar disorder: Meta-analyses of use in mania and bipolar depression. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 73(1): 81–86.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
Donald Sproule, MDCM, CCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry

Current as ofNovember 20, 2015