Bipolar disorders are a complex mood disorder condition that isn’t really one complete diagnosis. In past years it was known as Manic-Depressive disorder but the name was changed to avoid some of the social stigma that is related to depression. However, the reality remains the same.
People who experience bipolar disorder suffer from periods of depression that is somewhat different from the depression suffered in a Major Depressive Disorder and periods of mania or hypomania in which they have excess energy, creativity and aggression. These distinct episodes can also be mixed which presents in a variety of way depending upon the individual.
Niacin is a form of Vitamin B that is essential to the function of the human body. Researchers have found that it has many beneficial effects such as decreasing the bad cholesterol – LDL – and is essential in the production of energy from blood sugar. Despite the variety of nutritional sources and how essential it is to the body there are times when it can be deficient.
There are potential problems when taking niacin in larger doses that have led to emergency room visits. Individuals who are considering supplementing their diets with niacin should consult with their physician to maintain the correct dosage and not risk the side effects of an over dose. Those people who have experienced these over doses will suffer from flushing of the skin over the entire body, sometimes with a fine red rash and with a drop in blood pressure. This drop in blood pressure can be dangerous in those whose blood pressure is already lower than normal.
Researchers from the University of Toronto have found that using niacin to induce the vasodilation (red flushing skin and drop in blood pressure) is predictive in the diagnosis of schizophrenia and to a lesser extent in people suffering from bipolar disorder. The results showed that 42% of those tested who had diagnosed schizophrenia didn’t vasodilate in response to the niacin while only 6% of those with bipolar disorder and none of the healthy control subjects had an impaired response. These results help to differentiate the pathways and causes of mental illnesses which help researchers to point to the causes of these illnesses.
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In another article published in Clinical Psychiatry News, 2007, by Dr. Michael Berk the researchers focused on the potential of using antioxidant therapy (niacin included) to treat both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
In their research the scientists found that oxidative stress plays a role in both the disorders and that those who suffer from these disorders also have deficits of certain antioxidant enzymes. Whether those deficits are a result of nutritional deficits or from genetic inability to fully utilize and store these enzymes is another question.
The researchers used N-acetylcysteine (NAC), which is a precursor to glutathione. Glutathione plays a specific role in the defense against oxidative damage. In his research Dr. Berk found that those people who suffered from bipolar disorder and took NAC showed significant improvement in depression, mania and overall functioning.
The downside to using NAC is that it takes a long time to feel the effects and that the research supporting the use of this supplement for bipolar disorder is in the preliminary stages. This drug has been approved by the FDA for other medical conditions and so it may take less time to approve the use for treatment of bipolar disorder.