Study Claims Fish Oil Can Prevent Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders
Fish oil has been said to have numerous uses ranging from aiding in recovery from severe brain injury to improving general health, with varying levels of effectiveness. However, a new scientific study published in Nature Communications suggests fish oil may be particularly effective in preventing mental health issues later in life.
Fish oil contains the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic (EPA), docosahexaenoic (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which are needed to maintain the cell membranes in our body which form the foundation for the production of hormones.
The new study builds on past research by the team from the University of Melbourne in Australia, in which they first focused on how omega-3 influences the development of psychotic disorders.
For the study, Prof. Paul Amminger and colleagues assessed a total of 81 individuals between 13 and 25 who were deemed to be at risk for developing psychosis and schizophrenia.
The 81 participants were assessed in a randomized and double-blind trial which placed 41 participants into a 3-month daily course of fish oil, while the remaining participants were administered a placebo.
After the 3-month period, the researchers monitored the participants for another 12 months. At this point, 76 of the 81 participants had successfully completed the study. At the end of this period, only two of the 41 people in the group taking fish oil had transitioned to a psychotic disorder. In comparison, 11 of the 40 participants taking placebos developed a psychotic disorder.
The researchers then evaluated the individuals 7 years after the study began and the results showed the majority of those who were given fish oil still showed no signs of psychotic disorders.
Of the group who were administered fish oil, only four of the 41 individuals had developed a psychotic disorder at this point. The figure for the placebo group was much higher, with 16 of the 40 developing a psychotic disorder in this time.
Speaking to The Guardian, Prof. Amminger hopes the study may offer an alternative treatment for psychotic disorders. He says, “Schizophrenia is a major cause of disability, but early treatment has been linked to better outcomes. Our study gives hope that there may be alternatives to antipsychotic medication.”
The new study is limited by its relatively small size, which leads the researchers to call for more extensive studies in the future.
The study concludes by saying fish oil “may offer a viable longer-term prevention strategy with minimal associated risk in young people at ultra-high risk of psychosis.”