The risks of anti-psychotic medications are well documented, especially in young adults, making safer alternatives highly desired. A study published recently 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.