|Blues are a nice oily fish|
As long as seven years after getting a 12-week course of Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, new research has found that young people at very high risk of developing schizophrenia were much less likely than those who did not get the supplements to develop full-blown psychosis, or to manifest a range of psychiatric disorders that commonly afflict such young adults.
The new research is the first to document rigorously the impact of fish oil supplements as a means of preventing severe psychiatric disease. The apparent effects of a brief regimen of fish oil capsules were both lasting and far-ranging in a population of young adults whose mental health is fragile.
|So are Reds|
In the new study, researchers focused on a population of young people who are uniquely vulnerable to developing severe mental illness. The trial drew subjects between the ages of 13 and 25 who were reporting low-level or transient hallucinations or delusional thinking, or who had a family history of severe mental illness and whose functioning at school, work or home had begun to deteriorate.
On average, young people who fall into one or more of these categories are thought to have a 35% to 40% chance of developing schizophrenia--a lifelong condition marked by disabling disturbances of thinking and perception. And nearly 7 in 10 will develop other psychiatric disorders, including major depression, bipolar disorder and substance dependency.
Of 81 young people in Vienna who had sought psychiatric treatment and were drawn into the study, 41 got a daily dose of fish oil that contained 700 milligrams of Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 480 milligrams of Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) for 12 weeks. Another 40 study subjects got a placebo capsule to take daily.
|or Sea Trout|
Roughly seven years later, researchers found clear differences in outcomes between the two groups. Among those who had gotten the placebo capsules, 40% had suffered a full-blown psychotic episode and were diagnosed as suffering psychotic disorder; among those who got the Omega-3s, just under 10% had progressed to psychotic disorder. And those who got the placebo had converted to full-blown illness more quickly than subjects who had taken fish oil.
|or Pompano and Permit|
While 54% in the placebo group were found on follow-up to have been prescribed antipsychotic medication, 29% of those in the fish-oil group had had such medications prescribed. Of the placebo group, 83% had been diagnosed with some other psychiatric condition seven years later. Among those who got fish oil supplements, 53% had received another psychiatric diagnosis.
The latest research also suggests that there may be a critical period of brain development, somewhere in mid- to late adolescence perhaps, in which a young person teetering on the edge of mental illness can be pushed back from the brink.Traditionally, dietary work has been difficult (look at what happened with recent advances in recommendations for fats, cholesterol, salt and even whether or not to skip breakfast so I wouldn't jump on this band wagon (anymore than we already have) too quickly. But the results don't seem marginal. Often dietary studies have small effects over a very large sample size, which when extrapolated to the entire world should end up saving many lives. But the small effects are often not found or even reversed in subsequent studies. However, for this study, the difference between 83% and 53% is pretty large.
Could the human diet be evolved to consume large amounts of fish and other oily things bearing omega-3 fatty acids, and the relatively recent shift to a agricultural and grain based diet left us with a chronic deficiency which affects some substantial number of people?
Linked at Pirate's Cove in the weekly "Sorta Blogless Sunday Pinup." Wombat-socho brings the grand Rule 5 roundup with "Rule 5 Sunday: Rebel Girls."