People say that eating fish is good for the body and the brain. Scientists are now working to confirm that fish oil’s omega-3 compound has a positive impact on slowing the development of mental health disorders.
Although the cause of schizophrenia remains unknown, about 1 percent of Americans suffer from the disorder, according to the National Institute for Mental Health. A recent trial that builds on older studies shows fish oil may be the key to stopping schizophrenia from progressing past the first stage.
Fish Oil And The Human Brain
Schizophrenia begins to show itself with mild symptoms, including delusions and paranoid thoughts, as individuals enter their teen years. The disorder is usually diagnosed in patients between the ages of 16 and 30 years old. The symptoms, which are listed below, will start developing slowly and begin to worsen as time goes on.
Cognitive: amnesia, belief that an ordinary event has special and personal meaning, belief that thoughts aren’t one’s own, delusion, disorientation, making things up, memory loss, mental confusion, slowness in activity and thought, thought disorder, or false belief of superiority
Behavioral: aggression, agitation, compulsive behavior, excitability, hostility, hyperactivity, nonsense word repetition, repetitive movements, self-harm, social isolation, disorganized behavior, or lack of restraint
Mood: anger, apathy, excitement, feeling detached from self, general discontent, inability to feel pleasure, elevated mood, or inappropriate emotional response
Psychological: anxiety, depression, fear, hallucination, paranoia, persecutory delusion, religious delusion, hearing voices, or mistrust
Speech: circumstantial speech, incoherent speech, rapid and frenzied speaking, or speech impairment
When the symptoms do begin to show, doctors are wary of prescribing antipsychotics to younger patients. Antipsychotics are associated with various short-term symptoms, including drowsiness and skin rashes, and long-term issues such as the movement disorder known as tardive dyskinesia.
For those with early symptoms, about one-third of people go on to develop psychosis. But fish oil’s active ingredient may help to slow the progression if its prescribed to patients at the right time.
Fish oil supplements possess the polyunsaturated fatty acid omega-3, which can help to lessen brain inflammation and protect neurons from damage. People with schizophrenia have lower levels of these fatty acids in their bodies and potentially in their brain cells.
Researchers believe that the omega-3 chemical could lower levels in the brain that are associated with mental illness.
Research into fish oil as a treatment for adults with schizophrenia has been inconclusive. Four trails found a successful impact from fish oil, whereas four other trials found no difference or improvement.
However, previous trials have suggested that fish oil will have a positive impact on the disorder’s progression if prescribed early in its first stages. A trial conducted seven years ago included 81 people from age 13 to 25 who experienced early symptoms of schizophrenia.
Half of participants took fish oil pills for three months, whereas the other half took a placebo. Those who took the fish oil pills were found to be less likely to develop psychosis a year later.
The recent trial acts as a follow-up, confirming that those who were given the fish oil may have been put on a different path altogether.
Out of the 71 included in the small-scale follow-up, 10 percent of participants who used fish oil developed schizophrenia. In the placebo group, 40 percent developed the disorder.
Researchers warn that the trial is small and must be reproduced to confirm fish oil’s effect on schizophrenia. In addition, the over-the-counter dosage of omega-3 may not have enough fatty acids to be beneficial to the patient.
Therapy and antipsychotics are the only treatments currently available, but recent trials bring hope that an effective and safe natural remedy is out there.
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