Could Fish Oil Prevent Schizophrenia?


I remember, several years ago, going to a national drug development meeting; the first time I had been at such a meeting, with drug company folks from the highest national levels. I remember how excited I was.  Maybe someone could develop an antipsychotic that really could escape all those neuromuscular side effects.  Maybe they had new things that were more powerful than antibiotics, which I already knew were not working as well as they ought to. I remember, with characteristic naivete, that it felt impossible to find anyone with whom I could discuss the pharmacology that so impassioned me, for the “big” drug guys seemed to be more interested in the business and politics of the thing.

There had been a big push for HIV vaccines or treatments, some kind of regulations for approval had been relaxed.  They said this a bandwagon to get on. Not even discussions of things like informed consent.  This had always been a concern for me as so much can go wildly wrong. It was years later, when I was working with mostly Spanish speaking folks in an urban southern California clinic, with (as usual) chronically malnourished folks, who had a tough time getting enough carbohydrate to survive.  I simply wondered if they had ever been exposed to omega 3 fatty acids, or if anyone had tried to make this intervention on a public level.  These people seemed to be more psychotic than I expected even psychotic patients to be.

I found two papers back then, maybe 5 to 7 years ago, one published by a group out of Vienna and another by a group out of Tel Aviv.  They were giving fish oil to people at high risk for schizophrenia. They were even giving them to the pregnant moms of kids who were at risk for schizophrenia. Both studies, which I have turned the internet upside down to find again (but alas can not find the exact articles) suggested schizophrenia could be “put off” by fish oil.”

I find it thrilling exciting, that a cheap,”generally recognized as safe,” substance may defer, maybe even prevent, a serious mental illness that I have seen destroy lives and families. We should not have to get this through the FDA like a vaccine for AIDS.  I see no significant reason why it can’t be used alongside current treatments.  I cannot be the only one who knows this. Recently, I have persevered a bit on this topic. One pretty teency study has looked into fish oil therapy for psychosis.  I mean about 1% of the U.S.A. population is schizophrenic.

Forbes? I thought it was a financial journal, but at least this is of some interest to the business community… Look, I am not finding much more in the way of research. I am still checking out the folks at the International Society for Nutrition in Psychiatry Research. Lots of people are willing to speak in generalities about how nutrition is important in psychiatry, and should be mainstream.  But finding research on specific interventions is really tough to do. What is going on now would seem to flow from the people in Vienna I read years ago, according to what I read in “Nature” magazine.

Prevention is an ideal superior to treatment of an entity such as schizophrenia.  Still, I suspect, with even the risk of a diagnosis like this one, that it would be a bit difficult, even with the low price of Fish Oil, to get preventive fish oil to — and accepted by — the parents and family members who need it, as they may themselves be impaired. At least they hit the American clinical academic literature. And people seem to be looking at their data.  Even a conservative source like WebMD gives a lot of clinical uses. Still, clinical data for psychiatry is sparse. If you want to use it for prevention or treatment in any kind of mental illness, it is still necessary to check drug-drug interactions, (with physician, pharmacist, etc.) and talk it out with your physician.  But this is a potentially wildly effective solution for many things. Why don’t we just look at the advantages (Great) and risks (minimal)? Stay tuned.

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