Schizophrenia is a serious psychotic condition with delusions and hallucinations, which can be very taxing for the sufferer as well as for the rest of the family. Most people experience a slow and gradual worsening of the brain ailment, and the disease may even spread to other organs. On average, people who suffer from schizophrenia die 10 years earlier than the general population, which is why it is vital to prevent the disease or ameliorate its symptoms. Scientists have discovered that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids has a positive effect for several reasons.
Schizophrenia normally starts in adolescence or early adulthood and affects around one percent of the population. It may be hereditary or caused by environmental factors. Lacking certain vital nutrients, which are important for the brain, may theoretically trigger the disease. Schizophrenia is a permanent ailment that lasts for years, it may even be lifelong, and the grave symptoms and accompanying social problems cause around 10 percent of suffers to commit suicide. There are also examples of people recovering from their disease, even after many years of suffering. The use of standard medication will not cure the condition, it only stops the most threatening symptoms, but now studies suggest that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce symptoms even more.
Symptoms of schizophrenia
Schizophrenics never have all the symptoms, and the profile normally changes in the course of the disease.
Productive symptoms: Hallucinations, delusions, thought disorders, motor system disorders
Negative symptoms: Apathy, isolation from others, self-neglect, and autism where people feel misunderstood and are primarily occupied in their own world
Omega-3 fatty acids have long-term benefits
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for the brain and nervous system. Modern diets generally contain too little omega-3, and this is associated with several psychological disorders, including schizophrenia.
Austrian researchers have conducted a double-blind, randomized study that demonstrated how three months of daily supplementation with 1.2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids reduced the risk of developing psychoses. Even after 12 months, the risk of developing psychoses was lower among youngsters in the risk treatment group compared with the placebo group.
Afterwards, the researchers looked at many of the same people and found, after nearly seven years of follow-up, that the three months of omega-3 supplementation continued to reduce the risk of developing a serious psychosis. It also lowered the general risk of death. The majority of participants from the omega-3 group did not show any major signs of function loss or psychological symptoms during follow-up. The results are published in the science journal Nature Communications.
|Researchers still need to show whether omega-3 fatty acids taken for several months or years or possibly longer have an even more positive effect in terms of preventing and treating the disease. Regardless of a person’s age, omega-3 is vital for the brain and nervous system|
The omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, have many important functions in the brain
The human brain primarily consists of fats such as cholesterol, omega-3 fatty acids, and omega-6 fatty acids. The different lipids are important for the structure and functioning of the cell membranes. Cell membranes send out signals that initiate or terminate the activities that the cells are responsible for in the brain or in other parts of the body. In the science of epigenetics, the cell membrane is regarded as the brain of the cell.
The omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, that comprises 11 percent of the brain’s dry weight helps make the cell membrane soft and pliable, while supporting an enzyme activity called NOS (nitric oxide synthase) that is important for memory and learning.
DHA is also an important structural element of neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1) that has many functions in the brain.
The omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are also involved in a biochemical interplay with the omega-6 fatty acid AA (arachidonic acid), and it is important to consume them in the right balance. For example, EPA and AA compete for the production of some hormone-like substances called prostaglandins that are important for inflammation, insulin sensitivity etc. For this reason, it is vital to consume these fatty acids in the right balance.
Schizophrenia and inflammation
According to Iris Sommer, University of Medical Center in Utrecht, Holland, there is increasing evidence that inflammation plays a role in the development of schizophrenia. This is also the case with other neurological disorders like depression where scientists have observed inflammation in the brain.
Omega-3 fatty acids and their role in the brain and nervous system
Skewed ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 in modern diets
Omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fatty acids, which we humans are not able to produce by ourselves. We need them from our diet in an adequate and balanced ratio.
Farmed fish, slaughter animals, chickens, and dairy cattle are fed diets that contain a lot of omega-6. Because of this, fish, meat, eggs, and dairy products often contain less omega-3 than they used to. It is made worse by our decreasing fish consumption and our tendency to buy ready meals and eat margarine. All of this added up means that we get too much omega-6 and too little omega-3. Modern diets in western countries often have a skewed balance between omega-6 and omega-3, where we typically get the two in a 10:1 ratio (in some places it may be a 30:1 ratio). The optimal ratio is believed to be 4:1 or maybe even less. Under any circumstances, there is room for improvement.
People who suffer from schizophrenia should pay careful attention to getting plenty of omega-3, and it is also a good idea to reduce ones intake of omega-6 fatty acids from margarine, junk-food, sunflower oil, corn oil, and grapeseed oil. Instead, choose olive oil with omega-9, which is not pro-inflammatory.
Omega-3 fatty acids from fish or supplements?
Most people fail to follow the official diet guidelines that recommend eating fish several times per week, preferably at least 350 grams with 200 grams coming from oily fish types that are particularly rich in EPA and DHA. People who dislike the taste of fish can easily take a fish oil supplement, instead. Fish oil supplements based on free fatty acids are easily absorbed in the body. It is also important to choose a product that is within the threshold values for peroxides and environmental toxins.
Different fatty acids and their sources
Saturated fats: Animal fat, dairy products, coconut oil
It is a good idea to take extra B vitamins
Another article on www.healthandscience.eu* mentions a meta-analysis showing that supplements with large doses of vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and biotin (vitamin B8) may help reduce symptoms of schizophrenia more than standard medication alone. It also appears to be an advantage to take high-dosed B vitamins as early in the disease course as possible. The study is published in the journal Psychological Medicine.
Lack of B vitamins typically is a result of modern diets, too much sugar, stimulants, medicine, and stress
Amminger GP et al. Longer-term outcome in the prevention of psychotic disorders by the Vienna-3 study. Nature Communications 2015
Ana Sandoiu. B vitamins may improve schizophrenia symptoms. Medical news Today. February 2017
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