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November 28, 2007
Omega-3 Fish Oils Tested as Preventative Approach to Schizophrenia, with Positive Results
Read more... Complementary Schizophrenia Treatments · Early Schizophrenia Treatment · Schizophrenia Diagnosis · Schizophrenia Prevention
While there has been research on the benefits of fish oil, specifically omega-3 fatty acids, on both preventing schizophrenia and minimizing some of the symptoms of the illness, most of the research has been inconclusive (sometimes it seems to help, other times it doesn't show any effect). However, a new study conducted by Dr. Patrick McGorry in Australia, examined the effects of fish oil in protecting against schizophrenia and it had a significantly positive impact in this study.
The study examined 81 at-risk youths (youths who have a family history of schizophrenia) between the ages of 13 and 24. All of the participants had previously shown early signs of schizophrenia such as short hallucinations and delusions. According to the story, past research has shown that if left untreated, about one-third of the participants would go on to develop schizophrenia.
The researchers treated half of the participants with fish oil for three months, while the other half took a placebo that appeared to be fish oil. A year after prescribing fish oil or placebo, the researchers found that "...three percent of those (participants) who had taken fish oil supplements had developed schizophrenia. This compared with 28 percent of those who had swallowed the placebo."
Previous studies have suggested that anti-psychotic drugs when used early in illness reduce the rate to about 12 percent. However, their use is controversial as they have severe side-effects like heavy weight gain and increased risk of heart disease.
As one researcher stated in the story, these findings provide us with non-medication based treatment option, which seems beneficial to people at risk of developing schizophrenia. They further support the idea of the benefits of diagnosing and treating the illness sooner than later.
Interestingly we've talked in the past with a researcher at Yale University (Dr. Scott Woods) who did a preliminary study on possible benefits of Omega 3 fish oils in the prevention of schizophrenia. Our understanding is that they had to cancel this study after a few months because they saw absolutely no response at all in the people they had in their preliminary study who were on Omega 3 fish oils. Obviously the issue is still undecided. The new study done by Dr. McGorry and his team needs to be replicated by another research team with larger numbers of study participants. We look forward to reporting on the results.
Here is an interview with the people who did the study, (the interview is transcribed from the Australian Broadcasting Corp radio program):
Researchers say a daily dose of fish oil may stop young people at risk developing schizophrenia. Barbara Miller reports.
BARBARA MILLER: It's possible to identify young people who are at risk of developing schizophrenia, because they experience brief hallucinations or delusions.
If they're left untreated, typically around one-third go on to develop a psychotic disorder. But if they are treated using antipsychotic drugs they often suffer severe side effects. New research carried out in Austria has highlighted a potentially safer way of treating those vulnerable to developing schizophrenia.
The findings are being presented today at a conference of the World Psychiatry Association in Melbourne.
Dr Paul Amminger, who's working now with the Orygen Research Centre in Melbourne, is the lead researcher.
PAUL AMMINGER: We looked at a group of 81 people, all between 15 and 25 years, and we treated them with omega-3 fatty acids in the randomised control trial (RCT).
BARBARA MILLER: How much fish oil were they given?
PAUL AMMINGER: About 1.5 gram (or 1,500 milligram, mg) a day.
BARBARA MILLER: So not very much?
PAUL AMMINGER: No. But it's actually in the range, which you can also reach with a very fishy diet. So it's not a huge amount of fish oil.
BARBARA MILLER: And you found quite a marked difference in the group, which was taking fish oil, compared to the group who wasn't taking oil in terms of developing the signs of schizophrenia?
PAUL AMMINGER: Yeah, that's right. What we saw is that at the 12 months follow up meeting, even the intervention (how long the people took the fish oils) was only for three months, when we followed the people up a year later we saw that about 5 per cent in the omega-3 group developed psychosis, and there were 28 per cent in the placebo group.
BARBARA MILLER: That seems like a huge difference.
PAUL AMMINGER: Yeah. The risk in the placebo group was seven times as high to develop psychosis. And I think probably reason why we saw this quite large effect is that if you have a treatment early, even a benign treatment, early in the disorder, your effects are probably much better than later in this stage.
BARBARA MILLER: The director of the Orygen Research Centre is Professor Patrick McGorry.
PATRICK MCGORRY: This research is part of a worldwide focus now, a cutting edge focus on very early treatment of schizophrenia, just like we do in breast cancer, where we're looking for the smallest breast lump and trying to prevent a potentially dangerous disease from getting entrenched. Similarly now, we're looking at that in schizophrenia. And the fish oil, surprisingly, has proved very positive at this stage of illness.
We're looking for more benign and safer treatments, more acceptable treatments in psychiatry, and I think this would be one if it stands up [that is, research results continue to be positive in terms of its effectiveness]. Even if it doesn't, I think it'll be part of the treatment package that we can offer to patients, and there'll be a lot more choice for them as well.
BARBARA MILLER: There have been studies before suggesting that fish oil could be used to treat schizophrenia, but the treatment has often been started in later stages of the disorder, and the studies have been small-scale.
In a study coordinated from Australia, the researchers will now try and replicate their findings in nine centers around the world.
Read the Full Story: Fish oil could keep schizophrenia at bay (Herald Sun--Australia)
Sources of Omega 3 Fish Oils:
Following are some sources of Omega 3 fish oils that we've heard of and that seem to be reputable from the research we've done. We have no affiliation with any of the these providers and we encourage you to do your own analysis in terms of what is best. The research we've seen suggests that you need to take at least 3 grams per day for people who already have schizophrenia (1.5 grams, or 1500 mg, if the person is only at high risk of developing schizophrenia due to a family history.
One Researcher we've talked to a number of years ago suggested that the products that are higher in EPA omega 3 fatty acids (and lower in DHA - as a ratio) may be more likely to be effective - but this has not been proven in research, to our knowledge. Search around on the Internet for the best price. Google's product search engine can be helpful.
The most cost effective source of Omega 3 fish oils we've found in the US is Costco's brand - check their stores for purchase, or buy online at: www.costco.com (search for "Omega 3").
Here are some other sources that we've heard are reputable companies:
NutraSea HP (this is good because its flavored, for people who don't like the taste of fish oils and for whom enteric (hard covering) coated capsules of fish oil still don't prevent the taste from getting into their mouth.
Posted by szwriter at November 28, 2007 02:16 PM
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