Omega-3 Fish Oils Tested as Preventative Approach to Schizophrenia, with Positive Results
I recently ran across a study concluded in late 2007 suggesting that omega-3s can possibly delay or even prevent the onset of schizophrenia in at-risk youths. These findings could offer a safe way to treat a crippling condition and potentially prevent it, without the harsh side-effects of anti-psychotic medications, said experts from the Orygen Research Centre in Melbourne. From an article published in the Herald Sun (Australia) and another at www.Schizophrenia.com:
The study examined 81 at-risk young adults (with a family history of schizophrenia) between the ages of 13 and 25. All of the participants had previously shown early signs of schizophrenia such as short hallucinations and delusions. Research has shown that if left untreated, about a third of the participants would go on to develop schizophrenia.
Half of the study participants were given 1.5g of fish oil daily for three months, while the other half took a placebo that appeared to be fish oil. After a year of administering either the fish oil or placebo, the researchers found that “…3% of those (participants) who had taken fish oil supplements had developed schizophrenia. This compared with 28% of those who had swallowed the placebo.”
Previous studies have suggested that, when used early on, anti-psychotic drugs reduce the rate of development to about 12%. However, anti-psychotics have severe side-effects such as heavy weight gain and increased heart disease risk.
Lead researcher Paul Amminger states, “The risk in the placebo group was seven times as high to develop psychosis. And I think probably the reason why we saw this quite large effect is that if you receive a treatment early, even a benign treatment, early in the phase of the cause of a disorder, your effects are probably much better than later in this stage.”
Researchers are now planning a larger, multi-centre trial in a bid to replicate the findings of this initial study. While this seems promising for young people at risk for developing schizophrenia, the jury is still out for those that already suffer from it. A research review article from Cochrane Review suggested that “the use of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids for schizophrenia remains experimental and large well designed, conducted and reported studies are indicated and needed.”
In any case, giving at-risk youth a high-quality fish oil supplement poses no adverse affects, especially since numerous studies concluded that fish oil has been found to improve concentration and learning in youth. As Dr. Armminger states, “What we have here, it seems, is a very good and non-invasive alternative that could be safely used on at-risk people where only a proportion were ever going to develop the condition.”
The earlier that someone starting to show symptoms of schizophrenia gets treatment, the better the outcome for that person. If a family member or someone you know is at-risk, please educate yourself about the symptoms and consult with a mental healthcare professional that can provide early treatment if necessary. You can also read about the specific actions that research suggests are most likely to reduce your, or your child’s, risk of mental illness here.
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