Research starting in the early 90’s has suggested a neurodevelopmental basis for schizophrenia. Other studies suggest a biochemical basis for this abnormal development in schizophrenics related to insufficient fatty acids – fatty acids that contribute to the phospholipids which are the building blocks of neuronal membranes. Growth of axons and dendrites, making new synaptic connections and pruning of old ones, involves the synthesis and breakdown of phospholipids.

Based on findings of reduced fatty acids in people with schizophrenia, researchers have been studying whether giving Long-chane omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) to patients at high risk for developing psychotic disorder would prevent them from developing psychotic disorder.

Patients were selected for participation if they were aged 13 to 25 years and met criteria for 1 or more of three groups of risk factors for psychosis: attenuated positive psychotic symptoms, transient psychosis and genetic risk plus a decrease in functioning. People meeting these criteria have a higher risk (up to 40%) of becoming psychotic within a 12-month period.

They found that a daily dose of 4 capsules providing approximately 1.2 g of omega-3 fatty acids significantly prevented conversion to psychosis. After 12 months in the study, 4.9% (2 of 41) in the omega-3 group and 27.5% (11 of 40) in the placebo group hat converted to psychotic disorder.

In addition, the group differences were sustained after cessation of the intervention.

References

  • G. Paul Amminger; Miriam R. Schafer; Konstantinos Papageorgiou; Claudia M. Klier; Sue M. Cotton; Susan M. Harrigan; Andrew Mackinnon; Patrick D. McGorry; Gregor E. Berger. Long-Chain ω-3 Fatty Acids for Indicated Prevention of Psychotic Disorders: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 2010; 67 (2): 146-154 [LINK]
  • The membrane phospholipid hypothesis as a biochemical basis for the neurodevelopmental concept of schizophrenia
    Schizophrenia Research, Volume 30, Issue 3, 10 April 1998, Pages 193-208
    David F. Horrobin
    [LINK]
  • JAMA and Archives Journals (2010, February 2). Fish oil may reduce the risk of psychotic disorders in high-risk individuals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 3, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2010/02/100201171521.htm