Stave off mental illness with fish oil
Tuesday 2nd February, 2010
A new trial suggests that a daily fish oil capsule can stave off mental illness in people who are at higher risk of psychosis.
Researchers found that a three month course of the fish oil supplement was as effective as drugs and helped cut the rate of psychotic illnesses by a quarter.
The supplement contains omega-3 – known for promoting a healthy heart – and is believed by researchers to have beneficial effects in the brain.
According to the Archives of Psychiatry, a natural remedy for mental illness will be welcomed.
“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,” the study authors said.
Many people have been put off taking antipsychotic drugs due to the serious side-effects whereas fish oil supplements are more tolerable and easy to take.
The study team treated 81 people deemed to be at high risk of developing psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia. Risks were assessed by a family history of psychosis or already displaying mild symptoms of psychotic conditions.
Half of the participants took 1.2g of omega-3 fatty acids contained with the fish oil supplement for a period of 12 weeks. The other half took a dummy pill. Neither group were aware of the which treatment they received.
Two people in the fish oil group developed a psychotic disorder compared to 11 in the dummy pill group.
Based of the results, the study team believe one in four high-risk adults could be protected from developing psychosis.
Alison Cobb of mental health charity Mind believes that the supplements would be a preferential treatment to drugs for young people.
“If they can be treated successfully with fish oils, this is hugely preferable to treating them with antipsychotics, which come with a range of problems from weight gain to sexual dysfunction, whereas omega-3s are actually beneficial to their general state of health.
“These are promising results and more research is needed to show if omega-3s could be an alternative to antipsychotics in the long term.”