A course of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAS) may help prevent the progression of psychotic disorders and psychiatric morbidity, according to a long-term study of young people at risk for psychosis and schizophrenia.
A team of researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia previously studied the effects of omega-3 on the development of psychotic disorders. In a follow-up study, the researchers tested their findings on 81 participants aged 13 to 25 years who were at risk of developing psychosis or schizophrenia.
The randomized, double-blind trial evaluated the effects of a three-month intervention period in which 81 participants aged 13 to 25 years who were at risk of developing psychosis or schizophrenia either took a daily course of omega-3 PUFAS (41) or took a placebo (40). Following the three-month intervention, participants were monitored for an additional 12 months. Seventy-six of the originaly 81 participants completed the study, with only two participants in the omega-3 group transitioning to a psychotic disorder, while 11 of the 40 participants in the placebo group progressed to a psychotic disorder.
In a longer-term, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled follow-up, four of the 41 participants in the omega-3 group went on to develop a psychotic disorder over the course of a median 6.7 years. In the placebo group, 16 of the 40 participants developed a psychotic disorder. The researchers noted that the majority of those in the omega-3 group did not show severe functional impairment and no longer experienced attenuated psychotic symptoms at follow-up.
The results indicate that there may be promising alternative therapies to treat debilitating psychotic disorders like schizophrenia.
Long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are essential for neural development and function. As key components of brain tissue, omega-3 PUFAs play critical roles in brain development and function, and a lack of these fatty acids has been implicated in a number of mental health conditions over the lifespan, including schizophrenia.
We have previously shown that a 12-week intervention with omega-3 PUFAs reduced the risk of progression to psychotic disorder in young people with subthreshold psychotic states for a 12-month period compared with placebo. We have now completed a longer-term follow-up of this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, at a median of 6.7 years.