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Treating Manic Depression With Fish Oil

May 03, 1999|THOMAS H. MAUGH II

Fish oil, long touted as an aid to reducing cholesterol, may prove effective in treating manic depression, according to a preliminary study of 44 patients at Harvard University. The results from that study were so positive that the study was ended prematurely, and all of the patients were given the food supplement. Fish oil is especially high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been associated with other health benefits.

All of the patients in the study continued to receive their regular medications, but half were given 14 capsules of fish oil per day and the other half received a placebo of olive oil. Dr. Andrew Stoll and his colleagues found that 11 of the 15 patients taking fish oil improved after four months and only two had a recurrence. Six of 20 receiving the placebo improved and 11 had a relapse. Some patients were not counted because the trial was halted before they had completed their four-month treatment.

The results will be published later this month. The National Institutes of Health will begin a three-year study of the treatment beginning this summer.

Not Just Calcium but Vitamin D Too

Even elderly women with an adequate intake of calcium may be at risk of hip fractures if they don't get enough vitamin D as well, according to researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Vitamin D is required for efficient absorption of calcium and for normal bone mineralization.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday May 10, 1999 Home Edition Health Part S Page 4 View Desk 1 inches; 18 words Type of Material: Correction
Tylenol Capsule--An item in the May 3 Capsules column misidentified Tylenol. It is not a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

Dr. Meryl S. LeBoff and her colleagues studied 30 women admitted to the hospital for hip fractures and 68 admitted for elective joint replacements. They reported in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Assn. that half of the women with hip fractures were deficient in vitamin D.

Advancing age is generally associated with reductions in sun exposure, intake and skin activation of vitamin D and vitamin D absorption, all of which contribute to deficiencies of the crucial chemical. Federal guidelines recommend 400 IU of vitamin D supplements daily for people 51 to 70 and 600 IU daily for those older than 70. But LeBoff and her colleagues recommend that 800 IU might be a more appropriate level, especially in winter.

NSAID Risk May Be Higher for the Elderly

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Tylenol and Advil have long been known to be hazardous to the kidney, but the risk may be higher when the drugs are used by the elderly, according to findings reported today in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Using National Institute on Aging data on kidney function tests in about 4,100 people older than 70, Dr. Terry S. Field and his colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center found that the likelihood of abnormal kidney function tests doubled in those taking the over-the-counter drugs. The results were most apparent among the elderly who had used the drugs on a regular basis.

The abnormalities were generally small, however, and not necessarily significant, Fields said. But the findings do show that some groups of the elderly may be at a particularly high risk.

Bedrails May Not Lessen Fall Danger

Raising the rails on hospital beds does not reduce the risk of falls by elderly patients and may even increase the risk of serious injury, New Zealand researchers report in the same issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Dr. H.C. Hanger and his colleagues at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Christchurch studied falls before and after the hospital implemented a new policy encouraging less use of bedrails. During the period studied, the use of bedrails declined from 30% to 14%, but the incidence of falls and the overall rate of fall-related injuries stayed constant.

There was, however, a significant decrease in the number of serious head injuries. Hanger speculated that many of the head injuries occurred when patients tried to climb over the rails and fell head-first.

Bad Habits Persist After Major Illness

Breaking bad habits is tough, even if your life depends on it, according to new UCLA research, which found that more than two-thirds of patients with multiple hospitalizations for congestive heart failure did not stop drinking and smoking in the year following their second admission.

Lorraine S. Evangelista and her colleagues at the UCLA School of Nursing studied 753 heart failure patients who were admitted to a large VA medical center in 1997 and 1998 for worsening of their symptoms. They reported Thursday at an American Heart Assn. conference in Boston that 71.4% of those admitted twice within a year continued to smoke after their second admission and 69.5% continued to drink.

The patients were also not very good at taking the drugs prescribed for them, such as digoxin, which increases the heart's pumping power. The team found that, as a group, the patients refilled their digoxin prescriptions on schedule only 36% of the time.

An estimated 4.5 million Americans suffer from congestive heart failure, and 400,000 develop it each year.

One way to get such patients to be more compliant with treatment regimens is to give them a picture of their damaged arteries, according to Dr. Jacques D. Barth of the Southern California Prevention and Research Center in Los Angeles.

Barth told the same heart meeting that patients given an ultrasound image of their damaged arteries were more likely to stop smoking and exercise more frequently than those who saw such a picture only once in the doctor's office.


Medical writer Thomas H. Maugh II can be reached at

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