Dietary Supplements May Improve Schizophrenia Symptoms

Healthnotes Newswire (October 18, 2007)—A new study suggests that people with schizophrenia may reduce unpleasant symptoms related to their disease and their medication by supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins E and C.

Schizophrenia, a serious psychiatric disorder that may cause hallucinations, psychoses, and delusional thinking, is commonly treated with the drug haloperidol. Although effective in disease treatment, haloperidol may cause a side effect known as akathisia—an uncomfortable feeling of inner restlessness.

People with schizophrenia may have low levels of fatty acids and an increase in oxidative stress, possibly because of the disease and as a medication side effect. Previous studies have shown that either omega-3 fatty acids or antioxidants may improve schizophrenia symptoms, but no study has evaluated the effects of using both in combination.

The authors of the new study, published in Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, enrolled 17 people with schizophrenia and had them each take 1,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids twice a day, 400 IU of vitamin E twice a day, and 1,000 mg of vitamin C once a day. At the end of the four-month study, all participants reported improvement in psychiatric symptoms. In ten people who reported akathisia at the beginning of the study, only one reported continued akathisia at the end. The authors acknowledged the study’s limitations, including a lack of a control or placebo group, a limited number of participants, and no documentation of participants’ dietary habits.

“Owing to its design, our study is unfortunately far from providing any evidence on the effect of supplementation on the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, and we believe that this aspect deserves further investigation,” the authors stated in their conclusion. They recommend a randomized controlled trial to further assess the role of supplements in treating schizophrenia and reducing the adverse effects of medication.

(Prog Neuro-Psychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 2007, doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2007.07.004)

Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, Web sites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.

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