Fish oil may help prevent psychosis among young people who have a high risk of developing the disease for up to seven years after taking the supplements, according to a small follow-up study presented this week at the International Early Psychosis Conference in Tokyo, Japan.
“A brief intervention with omega-3 supplements prevented psychosis for almost seven years after baseline in the individuals at ultra high risk of psychosis who participated in this trial,” the reports authors, Dr. Paul Amminger, and Patrick McGorry of the Orygen Youth Health Research Centre, at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and Monika Schlögelhofer, Medical University of Vienna, Austria, said in a Forbes article about the study.
In a 2010 trial, Amminger found that a 12-week intervention with long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids reduced the risk of psychosis, for one year, among a group of young people who had a high risk of developing the disease. Patients in the study received four capsules a day with two types of omega-3 fatty acids—even 700 milligrams of EPA and 480 milligrams of DHA—as well as 7.6 milligrams of vitamin E. Researchers followed up with this same group of 81 subjects about seven years after the original trial. In the group that received the omega-3s, 10 percent of subjects developed psychosis. In the placebo group, 40 percent developed the illness, and, the disease progressed faster among these subjects.
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The researchers are waiting for the results of two replication trials, completed earlier this year, to make recommendations on the efficacy of omega-3 preventing psychosis. Results are expected in March.
How do the omegas work to fend off the devastating disease? “They have anti-inflammatory properties, are neuroprotective, and also influence dopamine activity in brain regions that are relevant to schizophrenia,” Amminger explains in the Forbes story. “The finding that treatment with a natural substance may prevent, or at least delay, the onset of psychotic disorder gives hope that there may be alternatives to antipsychotic drugs,” he said. “Omega-3 fish oil preparations have the advantage of excellent tolerability, public acceptance, low cost and benefits for general health.”