Nutrition Hotline--Bipolar


Section: Q&A
Dr. Shari Answers your Questions

Carbohydrates' effect on weight
Q From F.G., Temple City, Ca.: I was told that I'd be able to lose weight if I stay away from carbohydrates. Is this a good idea?

A Consumption of refined carbohydrates -- including white-flour products and sugar -- can cause an abnormally high level of insulin to be produced by the body, in turn, causing blood sugar levels to rise. The problem is twofold: 1) The insulin levels remain high for a long period of time and can cause water retention, high blood pressure, and weight gain (mostly as fat); and 2) A person's cells do not respond to insulin in a normal way so blood sugar may remain elevated or suddenly drop and result in hypoglycemia. Foods that cause this reaction are those of modern day society: bread, pasta, cereal (except some very high-fiber cereals and oatmeal), sugar, crackers, sweets, candy, fruit juice, and most "junk" food -- these types of carbohydrates should be avoided. On the other hand, beans, lentils, sweet potatoes, yams, legumes, corn, peas -- any starchy vegetables -- are fine along with salads, cooked or steamed vegetables, and limited fruit. It is not necessary to avoid all carbohydrates, just the ones that quickly raise blood sugar.

SAMe eases fibromyalgia
Q From S.S., Kew Gardens, N.Y.: Is SAMe effective for fibromyalgia?

A A double-blind study showed that 800 mg of S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) was effective in improving overall disease activity, pain, fatigue, and morning stiffness in patients with fibromyalgia. Also, in other studies, SAMe was shown to be effective for depression and to have potent anti-inflammatory effects.

Fish oil for bipolar disorder
Q From R.B., Beverly, Mass.: I recently read an article about fish oil and bipolar disorder. Can fish oil help?

A A 4-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in 30 patients with bipolar disorder compared omega-3 fatty acids (9.6 g per day) vs. a placebo (olive oil), in addition to standard treatment, and found that the omega-3 fatty acid patient group had a significantly longer period of remission than the placebo group. In addition, for nearly every other outcome measure, the omega-3 fatty acid group performed better than the placebo group. The researchers concluded that omega-3 fatty acids were well-tolerated and improved the short-term course of illness in this preliminary study of patients with bipolar disorder.

Glucosamine sulfate & arthritis
Q From B.Y., East Orange, N.J.: How much glucosamine sulfate is effective for arthritis?

A When compared to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), glucosamine was significantly more effective at reducing pain and inflammation after eight weeks. What makes glucosamine so remarkable is that it has been shown to actually rebuild damaged cartilage and it desensitizes both cartilage and synovial fluid so the body's immune system stops attacking the joints and causing disability and deformity. Although NSAIDs can be effective at reducing pain in the short-term, if taken over a long period of time, they will actually damage and destroy the very cartilage that is being treated. Therapeutic doses of glucosamine sulfate range from 1,500 mg to as much as 6,000 mg per day.

Soy for menopausal symptoms
Q From L.D., Sedona, Arizona: Can soy products really help with menopausal symptoms? How much should I eat daily?

A Japanese women and studies with American women have shown that consumption of soy products which provide approximately 50-100 mg of isoflavones per day can help with menopausal symptoms. Four ounces of tofu, tempeh, and other types of soy protein provide about 35 mg of isoflavones; soy protein powders vary (see labels for details), but on the average provide 20-100 mg of isoflavones; soy milk provides about 30 mg of isoflavones; and roasted soy nuts provide about 60 mg of isoflavones. Also, kudzu and garbanzo beans provide similar amounts of isoflavones.

PHOTO (COLOR): Shari Liberman


By Shari Liberman

Shari Liberman holds a Ph.D. in clinical nutrition and exercise physiology. She is certified nutrition specialist (C.N.S), a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition (F.C.A.N) and serves on the board of the American Preventive Medical Association. Write her in care of Better Nutrition. She cannot answer questions by direct mail or telephone. Nutrition Hotline is intended for educational purposes only. If you have a medical problem, consult your physician.

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