Omega 3 and EFA Fatty Acids and Antioxidants Useful for Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia Update, January 2004

Essential fatty acid deficiency and resulting lipid membrane abnormalities have been hypothesized to play a role in schizophrenia onset. Moreover, epidemiologic data suggest an association between high fish consumption and positive outcomes in patients with schizophrenia.

These theories were supported in a recent study that showed Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids and specific antioxidants may relieve symptoms associated with schizophrenia and improve quality of life. Schizophrenia Research (2003;62:195-204).

In the new study, 28 chronically medicated schizophrenic adults and 45 healthy adults received a combination of omega-3 fatty acids (360 mg per day of EPA and 240 mg per day of DHA) plus two antioxidants (800 IU of vitamin E per day and 1,000 mg of vitamin C per day) for four months. Those with schizophrenia continued to take their prescription medications, including haloperidol (Haldol), risperidone (Risperdal), olanzapine (Zyprexa), and clozapine (Clozaril). Several psychological tests were performed monthly to evaluate whether symptoms had improved or worsened. Twenty-one of the 28 people with schizophrenia were additionally evaluated four months after discontinuing treatment to determine if the effects of treatment were sustained. Blood measurements of fatty acids were taken initially, at the conclusion of the study, and four months after stopping treatment.

Schizophrenics taking the fatty acids and antioxidants had significant improvements on most of the psychological tests and also showed improvement in quality of life after four months of treatment. These benefits were sustained for an additional four months after the supplements were discontinued. Those with schizophrenia were found to have lower levels of EPA and DHA prior to treatment compared with the healthy people, but these levels increased while taking the supplements.

Studies using omega-3 fatty acids or antioxidants alone have showed inconsistent results. Some studies suggest that oxidative damage to nerve cells decreases fatty acid levels in the brain. Supplementing with fatty acids helps replenish the diminished stores in cells, while vitamins E and C help protect the cell wall from oxidative damage. .


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For an earlier report studying omega 3 fatty acid supplements as part of schizophrenia treatment regimens, see 'EPA (Omega 3 Fatty Acid) Useful Add-on Therapy in Schizophrenia' in the October 2002 Schizophrenia Update edition




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