Brief Intervention with EPA/DHA Supplementation Found to Reduce Progression to Psychotic Disorder

August 24, 2015


Longer-term Outcome in the Prevention of Psychotic Disorders by the Vienna Omega-3 Study
Amminger, G. P. et al., Nature Communications , in press , 2015
The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, The University of Melbourne, Australia, and the Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria


Previous studies have indicated that young individuals in the so-called ‘at-risk mental state’ are at particularly high risk for progressing towards developing a serious psychotic disorder within a three-year period. Previous research by this particular group of investigators indicated that a 12-week intervention with omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in at-risk young people with sub-threshold psychotic states could reduce progression to psychotic disorder over a 12-month period. The resent report from this group gives their clinical findings when these subjects were followed for an extended interval of 6.7 years.

A total of 81 treatment-seeking subjects (aged 13-25 years and average age overall of 16 years at entry) were included in the trial who exhibited attenuated psychotic symptoms, transient psychosis , or other relevant symptomology. A total of 41 subjects were assigned to the omega-3 group (given 700 mgm EPA plus 480 mgm DHA daily – total EPA/DHA of 1180 mgm/day) and 40 to the ‘placebo’ group (no supplemental EPA/DHA). The subjects were clinically assessed (using various psychiatric measures) at entry, during the 12-week intervention period wherein they received daily supplementation with EPA/DHA or ‘placebo’, and throughout the entire follow-up period of 6.7 years overall (with no omega-3 supplementation given after the initial 12-week period). The risk of the cumulative risk of progression from the at-risk state to psychotic disorder was found to be markedly reduced (by 30.2 %) for the omega-3 group relative to controls (‘placebo’ group). During the entire follow-up period, 16 of 40 individuals on ‘placebo’ developed a psychotic disorder whereas only 4 of 41 did so in the omega-3 group. Also, a more rapid conversion time was found for the ‘placebo’ group as compared to the omega-3 group. The authors also noted that the majority of the subjects in the omega-3 group did not show severe functional impairment and no longer experienced psychotic symptoms at follow-up.

Dr. Holub's Comments:

It is noted that the daily supplemental regimen (EPA plus DHA) in this study of 1180 mgm/day during the intervention period was approximately 10 – 20 times that of current dietary intakes in this age group across numerous countries (including North America). Attaining such intakes without supplementation is both challenging and possible. However, a much more frequent intake of fish/seafood rich in EPA.DHA would be needed along with selected foods/beverages enriched with EPA/DHA. Future intervention trials using differing levels and ratios of EPA/DHA in this particular population of subjects are needed.

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