Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may have a protective effect against progression to psychosis for approximately 7 years in individuals at very high risk for the disorder, according to findings presented at the International Conference on Early Psychosis in Tokyo.
The study was the second follow-up to a 2010 investigation that determined in young people with subthreshold psychotic states who were at ultra-high risk for psychosis, a 12-week regimen of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) decreased the risk for progression to psychotic disorder for a 12-month period.
The current analysis was a double blind study aimed at assessing the longer-term effects of omega-3 therapy in preventing psychosis. The researchers evaluated the same 81 individuals (mean baseline age, 16.4 years; 67% female) who were at ultra-high risk for psychosis. Participants were assigned 1.2 g/daily omega-3 supplementation (n=41) or placebo (n=40) and followed for a median of 6.7 years. The primary outcome was transition to psychotic disorder.
Among the omega-3 group, the rate of transition to psychosis was 9.8% vs. 40% among the placebo group. The placebo group also progressed more rapidly to psychosis (P=.008). Based on measures of functioning using the Global Assessment of Functioning Scale, there was significantly more improvement in psychological functioning and symptomatic outcomes in the omega-3 group.
These findings persisted across age and gender. Moreover, another study by the researchers has suggested that patients with baseline fatty acid deficiencies and more negative baseline symptoms may benefit most profoundly from omega-3 supplementation.
“A brief supplementation with omega-3 supplements prevented psychosis for almost 7 years after baseline in the individuals at ultra-high risk of psychosis,” researcher G. Paul Amminger, MD, of Orygen Youth Health Research Centre, University of Melbourne, Australia, said in a press release. “While these results are promising, it will not be possible to make recommendations on the efficacy of omega-3 preventing transition to psychosis until the results have been confirmed in two replication trails. These trials have been completed … and results are expected to be available in late March 2015.”
Amminger said these findings suggest that for some patients, supplementation may be a realistic alternative to antipsychotic drugs.
“Omega-3 fish oil preparations have the advantage of excellent tolerability, public acceptance, low cost and benefits for general health,” Amminger said. “The trial suggests that supplementation with omega-3 may offer a viable indicated prevention strategy for psychosis.”
For more information:
Amminger GP. #OS-6. Presented at: International Conference on Early Psychosis; Nov. 17-19, 2014; Tokyo.
Disclosure: Relevant financial disclosures were unavailable at publication.