Schizophrenia Therapy: Omega-3s, antioxidants appear to help

Many studies confirm the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for psychological disorders including depression, bipolar disorder and Alzheimer’s disease. Omega-3s are abundant in fish oils and flax seed oil. A new study suggests that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids, along with antioxidant vitamins, has benefits for patients with schizophrenia.

Researchers from the National Chemical Laboratory in Pune, India, reported that both medicated and non-medicated schizophrenia patients often have reduced levels of essential fatty acids (EFAs), namely, arachidonic acid (AA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) and docosahexaenoic acids (DHAs). Building on past supplementation studies with EFAs, they studied the effects of supplementation with a mixture of omega-3s supplying EPA/DHA (180:120 mg) and antioxidants (vitamin E/C, 400 IU:500 mg) twice a day on 33 schizophrenic patients for 4 months.

The researchers measured fatty acid levels in red blood cell membranes and various clinical measures of psychological health before supplementation, at 4 months and again at a further 4 months after supplementation ended. They found that levels of fatty acids in blood cells at the 4-month mark were significantly higher than pretreatment levels, and also higher than in control patients. They also reported a significant reduction in typical schizophrenia symptoms based on a number of clinical measurement scales. Although levels of EFAs returned to pretreatment levels 4 months after supplementation ended, the clinical improvement was significantly retained.

The researchers conclude that larger, longer, placebo-controlled studies need to be done to confirm that EFA supplementation may be “a very effective treatment to improve the outcome for an extended period of time.”

Schizophr Res. 2003 Aug 1;62(3):195-204