Essential Fatty Acid Beneficial for Women with Personality Disorder
Women with moderately severe borderline personality disorder (BPD) may become less aggressive and less depressed by taking supplemental eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), according to a study in the American Journal of Psychiatry (2003;160:167–9). While EPA has been shown to be an effective adjunctive treatment for other mood disorders, this is the first study to suggest it may also be useful in the treatment of BPD.
Borderline personality disorder is a psychiatric condition that affects up to 2% of the American population. More than 75% of those diagnosed with BPD are women. People with BPD are often involved in unstable or intense interpersonal relationships and have low self-esteem. They may also demonstrate signs of impulsive behavior (such as excessive spending, drug abuse, or reckless driving) or outbursts of anger, and they frequently suffer from anxiety or depression. Improvement with antidepressants and mood stabilizers has been modest at best. Treatment with EPA may be equal to or more beneficial than drug therapy, with fewer adverse effects.
In the new study, 30 women with moderately severe BPD between the ages of 18 and 40 received 500 mg twice a day of EPA or a similar looking placebo for eight weeks. Two scales assessing aggression and depression were administered by a psychiatrist initially and then weekly or biweekly until the study was completed. None of the women were taking prescription antidepressant or mood-altering medications or consuming significant amounts of fatty fish (the main dietary source of EPA).
The women taking EPA had a significant decrease in aggression and less severe depression. Compared with the placebo group, average aggression and depression scores decreased in the EPA treatment group by 44% and 22%, respectively. The EPA capsules were well tolerated by each of the participants in the treatment group.
Some studies suggest that greater seafood consumption is associated with lower rates of bipolar disorder and major depression. Other studies have found EPA to be an effective adjunctive treatment for bipolar disorder and recurrent depression. BPD is a distinctly different from bipolar disorder and other types of depression, but may share similar biological or nutritional characteristics. The role of EPA as a mood-stabilizing agent requires further investigation, but the results of this pilot study are promising.
It should be noted that a purified EPA product, called ethyl-eicosapentaenoic acid (E-EPA), was used in this study. This product is not yet commercially available. While eating fatty fish or taking fish-oil supplements may mimic some of the effects of E-EPA, one cannot automatically assume that fish oil would be as effective as the purified preparation.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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