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Fish oil helps some mental illness

2nd February 2010

Omega-3 rich fish oil supplements can prevent psychotic episodes in people whose risk for such disorders is extremely high, according to a recent study.


Scientists had previously known that fish oil supplements were good for mental functioning as well as heart health.

However, the joint Swiss, Austrian, and Australian study is the first of its kind in studying the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on schizophrenia.

The researchers believe that the reason why the remedy works may be that schizophrenics have an underlying problem when it comes to metabolising fatty acids, which fish oil helps correct.

The finding has profound implications for the way such diseases are treated.

Anti-psychotic drugs are usually hazardous to other aspects of people's health, and treating people who are at risk of schizophrenia earlier on in life has been linked to better results.

Anti-psychotic pharmaceuticals have been linked to metabolic changes, sexual dysfunction and weight gain, so fish oil supplements may be a better choice for everyone.

For the purposes of the study, 81 people whose levels of psychosis risk was classified as 'ultra-high' were subjected to randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trials.

Over a three month period, 41 of the study participants were told to take fish oil on a daily basis, while the remaining 40 subjects were administered a placebo.

The caplets contained 1.2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids.

After three months, only 5% of the people taking fish capsules had been diagnosed with full-blown psychotic disorders, compared to 27.5% in the placebo group.

In terms of overall well being, the group that took placebo had a higher rate of psychotic symptoms and showed comparatively reduced functioning in day-to-day life.

All in all, three months of fish oil seemed to be as effective as anti-psychotic medication for sufferers who took the supplements.

Alison Cobb of Mind, a mental health charity, said that the idea that young people could be treated with fish oils would make them preferable to pharmaceuticals.

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in nature in various ocean fish and sea creatures. Products such as eggs and milk also contain omega-3.



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Article Information

Title: Fish oil helps some mental illness
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 13952
Date Added: 2nd Feb 2010


BBC News

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