There may now be a safe and effective way to help at-risk patients stave off mental illness — and you can find it almost anywhere.
A recent study from Australia found that at-risk teens and young adults who took fish oil supplements were less likely to develop psychosis than those who took placebos.
"Schizophrenia is a major cause of disability, but early treatment has been linked to better outcomes," said lead study author Paul Amminger, MD, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Melbourne, in a press release. "Our study gives hope that there may be alternatives to antipsychotic medication."
This study was a follow-up to a previous study led by Dr. Amminger.
In the original study, Dr. Amminger and team looked at 81 teens and young adults who had either been diagnosed with schizophrenia or were at a high-risk of developing the disorder.
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that can cause hallucinations and psychosis.
Half of the participants were given fish oil supplements for three months, and half were given a placebo for the same time.
The participants were then followed from 2004 to 2007.
Fish oil supplies long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which are required for normal brain cell development.
In the recent study, Dr. Amminger and team followed up on 71 of the original participants.
In the fish oil group, only four participants out of 35 developed psychosis during the 7-year interval.
In the placebo group, 16 out of 36 developed psychosis.
More patients in the placebo group were also prescribed anti-psychotic medications than in the fish oil group.
This study was published in the August issue of the journal Nature: Communications.
The Stanley Medical Research Institute funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.