Studies Show: Fish Oil Supplements Help Minimize Risk of Schizophrenia
Fish oils come from oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and trout and are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Health professionals often recommend eating more fatty fish or taking fish oil supplements due to their many health benefits. A recent study sheds light on another possible benefit: a reduced risk of schizophrenia.
This is not the first time that fish oil supplements have been linked to mental health. A study published in the February 2010 “Archives of General Psychiatry” found that just 12 weeks of fish oil supplements could significantly reduce the risk of psychosis in teens, and the benefits continued for at least nine months after treatment ended. According to G. Paul Amminger of the University of Vienna, Austria, the fish oil offered similar results to conventional treatments, such as antipsychotic drugs.
Schizophrenia’s symptoms often appear in a person’s teens or early 20s, but paranoid thoughts and minor delusions can begin much earlier. Until recently, there have been no effective preventive treatments, including antipsychotic drugs, which can have serious side effects.
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The 81 participants in the original study were recently reevaluated. The participants, who originally ranged from 13 to 25 years old, had early symptoms of schizophrenia during the first study. The follow-up study found that only 10 percent of the participants who had been given fish oil supplements developed schizophrenia compared to 40 percent of those who had been given a placebo.
According to researchers, fatty acids can have a protective effect on neurons and may help combat inflammation in the brain. Several mental illnesses have been linked to lower levels of fatty acids. This study and its follow-up offer hope for a simple preventive treatment option with minimal risk of side effects.
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Although researchers have not yet identified the mechanism of action, they have some ideas. Teens and young adults have rapidly developing brains. During these years, the brain is sculpted, and neural connections are actively developing and being pruned. The human brain needs fat to develop properly. When omega-3s are low, cell maintenance and production can be hampered. The benefits of supplementation can continue through life, and studies have shown a link between omega-3 fatty acids and weight loss, a reduced risk of depression, a lower risk of asthma and healthy brain and vision development in babies.