Omega-3 fatty acids found in abundance in fish oil are renowned for their heart, joint, eye health and anti-inflammatory benefits, and new research adds further support for their role in the brain and maintaining cognitive function. Via their ability to improve electrical signalling in the brain, omega-3 fatty acids also have a role in overcoming psychotic mental illness, according to new research.
Fish oil has for some time been linked with mood disorders, and was a key part of the prescription in Professor Basant Puri’s book, published originally in 2004, The Natural Way to Beat Depression: The Groundbreaking Discovery of EPA to Change Your Life. Since then, there have been several large-scale trials adding further support for the therapeutic use of purified fish oil in treating mood disorders. Now, an international team of researchers from Austria, Australia and Switzerland have revealed research findings (to be published in the February issue of Archives of General Psychiatry) which indicates a preventative effect of fish oil on the development of mental illness into fully developed schizophrenia.
The study, which involved 81 people deemed to be at high risk of developing psychosis, showed that a three-month course of fish oil may cut the rate of schizophrenia by a quarter. Half of the group were randomly assigned to take fish oil daily for three months, and the other patients took a placebo. After a year of monitoring all the subjects, 2 of the 41 (or about 5%) patients in the fish oil group had become psychotic, compared with 11 out of the 40 in the placebo group (about 28%).
The authors are hopeful that this finding will present real and effective alternatives to antipsychotic drugs, some of which are very potent and can have serious side effects. Fish oil supplements, on the other hand, are generally well tolerated, and are a safe option for people with mental health problems.