Home > tips > Tip #15: Fish Oil and Mental Illness.

Tip #15: Fish Oil and Mental Illness.

Fish oil and mental illness.  Taking fish oil may help prevent full-blown psychotic illness in at-risk adolescents and young adults, a study released today hints.  These at-risk individuals may have weak or transient psychotic symptoms, and already show schizophrenia-like brain changes, Dr. G. Paul Amminger of The University of Melbourne in Australia, a researcher on the study, told Reuters Health. But while psychiatrists now know how to identify these individuals, he added, they don’t know what to do with them. “At the moment there’s no state-of-the-art guideline (on) how to treat those people.”  There’s considerable evidence that abnormal fatty acid metabolism may contribute to the development of schizophrenia, Amminger and his team note in the Archives of General Psychiatry. To investigate whether omega-3 fatty acids might help prevent psychotic illness, they randomly assigned 81 at-risk individuals, 13 to 25 years old, to take 1.2 grams a day of omega-3s in fish oil capsule form or a placebo for 12 weeks and then followed them for another 40 weeks.  The effect of fish oil capsules, Amminger noted, was similar to that seen in two trials of antipsychotic drugs in at-risk individuals.

There are a number of mechanisms through which omega-3s could protect the brain, Amminger said; they are a major component of brain cells. They are also key to the proper function of two brain chemical signaling systems, dopamine and serotonin, which have been implicated in schizophrenia. Fish oil also boosts levels of glutathione, an antioxidant that protects the brain against oxidative stress.

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