Omega-3 fatty acids could be protective against psychiatric disorders

Reprinted with permission of Life Extension

In the February, 2010 of the American Medical Association journal Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers from Austria, Switzerland and Australia report that daily fish oil capsules containing long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) help prevent psychotic disorders in high risk individuals.

The current research included 81 young adults with mild psychotic symptoms, transient psychosis, or a family history of psychosis plus decreased functioning . In a randomized, double-blinded trial, G. Paul Amminger, MD of Medical University of Vienna and his colleagues gave 81 participants daily fish oil capsules providing 1.2 grams omega-3 fatty acids or a placebo for 12 weeks, followed by a 40 week monitoring period.

At the end of the study, 27.5 percent of the participants who received a placebo had progressed to a psychotic disorder, compared with 4.9 percent of those who received fish oil. Subjects who received fish oil also reported fewer symptoms and better functioning compared with the placebo group.

The authors remark that dysfunctional fatty acid metabolism could be involved in the development of schizophrenia, and that trials of omega-3 fatty acids have demonstrated benefits in this population. Omega-3 fatty acids may exert their protective benefits via their incorporation into cell membranes which affects membrane fluidity and receptor responses, by interaction with dopaminergic and serotonergic systems, or by increasing glutathione in the brain, which helps protect neurons.

“To our knowledge, this is the first randomized, placebo-controlled trial in a help-seeking group at ultra-high risk of psychosis to test the efficacy of omega-3 PUFAs in a preventive role,” the authors announce. “The present trial strongly suggests that omega-3 PUFAs may offer a viable prevention and treatment strategy with minimal associated risk in young people at ultra-high risk of psychosis, which should be further explored.”


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