The risks of anti-psychotic medications are well documented, especially in young adults, making safer alternatives highly desired. A study published this month in the Archives of General Psychiatry shows promise for individuals with psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia (1).
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial (the gold standard), 81 individuals 13-25 years of age were randomized to receive either supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids or a placebo. In order to be eligible for inclusion, individuals had to meet one or more of three well-defined and validated groups of risk factors. This may include hallucinations, suspiciousness, conceptual disorganization and genetic risk. Individuals with these risk factors have a 40-percent greater likelihood of becoming psychotic within a 12-month period of time.
The goal of this study was to determine if supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids could reduce an individual’s risk of progressing to a psychotic disorder, despite having these risk factors. It is thought that a dysfunction in fatty-acid metabolism may underlie schizophrenia, and that supplementation may help to counteract this (1). This trial took place over 12 weeks with follow-up at six and 12 months. At 12 months, 27.5 percent (11 of 40) of individuals in the placebo group had converted to having a psychotic disorder (10 with a form of schizophrenia and one bipolar), whereas only 4.9 percent (two of 41) of those in the omega-3 fatty-acid group presented with a disorder (two with a form of schizophrenia).
Although more research is needed, and the results of this trial may only be generalized to the age group studied; the implications of this trial are huge as omega-3 fatty acids are a safe and inexpensive alternative to anti-psychotic medications.
1. Amminger PG, Schäfer MR, Papageorgiou K, Klier CM, Cotton SM, Harrigan SM, Mackinnon A, McGorry PD, Berger GE. Long-Chain-3 Fatty Acids for Indicated Prevention of Psychotic Disorders: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010;67(2):146-154.