Fish Oil to Fend Off Psychosis: New Evidence

Michael T. Compton, MD, MPH


October 28, 2010

In This Article

Putting It all Together

These 3 studies, each published this year, provide initial evidence that: (1) dietary habits within the general population could potentially influence the manifestation of subclinical, psychotic-like symptoms that are thought to be markers of elevated risk of developing diagnosable psychotic disorders; (2) dietary modification or supplementation could have a role to play as the field continues to pursue preventive interventions aimed at reducing the risk of developing a psychotic disorder among those at especially high risk; and (3) similar dietary modification or supplementation may serve as an adjunctive treatment modality to reduce specific domains of symptoms, such as hostility, among patients diagnosed with schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders. Thus, in these 3 studies alone, there appears to be a convergence of epidemiological findings, "prodromal" research, and clinical studies with individuals with schizophrenia that indicates a beneficial effect of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, or fish oils.

What do these studies tell us about the state of dietary supplementation for schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders? First, we should be cognizant that the research is still in a relatively nascent state; recommendations for clinical practice are likely premature until additional studies can be conducted. Second, the exact nature of the associations found in these studies requires further research in terms of which polyunsaturated fatty acids are most beneficial, the optimal amount of intake, and the ways in which genetic factors may interact with dietary patterns in the manifestation of psychiatric symptoms. Third, the relations among the effects produced by fish oils and other polyunsaturated fatty acids and antipsychotic medicines remain to be determined; it is unknown whether such supplements will ever serve as replacements for pharmacologic agents, or if they are better thought of as adjunctive to mainstay treatments.


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