Fish oil pills may help teenagers stave off schizophrenia

There may finally be a way to stop people progressing beyond the first signs of schizophrenia – fish oil. When people with early-stage symptoms took omega-3 supplements for three months, they had much lower rates of progression than those who did not, according to one small-scale trial. …

Tests have found that people with schizophrenia have lower levels of these (omega 3) fatty acids in their blood cells, suggesting the same could be true for their brain cells. Fish oil supplements have been investigated as a treatment for adults with schizophrenia, but so far results have been mixed – four trials found no benefit while another four found a small reduction in symptoms.

But a study that gave omega-3 fish oil pills to younger people suggests that what matters is catching the condition in time. The trial followed 81 people aged 13 to 25 with early signs of schizophrenia. Roughly half took fish oil pills and half took placebo tablets for three months. A year later, those given fish oils were less likely to have developed psychosis.
New trajectory

That was seven years ago. The researchers have now followed up 71 of the participants and found that just 10 per cent of those given fish oils went on to develop schizophrenia, compared with 40 per cent of the placebo group. “We may have put them on a different trajectory,” says team member Paul Amminger of the University of Melbourne, Australia.

The results are striking, says David Taylor of the Maudsley Hospital in London. But he cautions that this was a small trial and the results need to be reproduced.


All that salmon sushi I ate as a kid… and to this day… has been paying off.

This is a very interesting article…

Yeah, fish oil. I ordered a lot of fish oil, took it for 6 months, came off meds, after 6 weeks, realised that I had to go back on meds. I no longer take fish oil!

I was using vegepa, the stuff that has a schizophrenia patent attached to it. Ah well.

In this story they also note;

"Amminger says the best approach for those at risk of developing schizophrenia would probably be to combine fish oil supplements with talking therapies."

And - here are some related stories / videos:


Eating more fish or taking regular fish oil supplements may help prevent psychosis in those most at risk, researchers claim.

A three month course of daily fish oil capsules appeared to significantly reduce the rate of psychotic disorders in young people, an improvement that seemed to persist when doctors assessed their mental health seven years later.

Longer-term outcome in the prevention of psychotic disorders by the Vienna omega-3 study
Nature magazine:

Long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are essential for neural development and function.

As key components of brain tissue, omega-3 PUFAs play critical roles in brain development and function, and a lack of these fatty acids has been implicated in a number of mental health conditions over the lifespan, including schizophrenia.

We have previously shown that a 12-week intervention with omega-3 PUFAs reduced the risk of progression to psychotic disorder in young people with subthreshold psychotic states for a 12-month period compared with placebo. We have now completed a longer-term follow-up of this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, at a median of 6.7 years.

Here we show that brief intervention with omega-3 PUFAs reduced both the risk of progression to psychotic disorder and psychiatric morbidity in general in this study. The majority of the individuals from the omega-3 group did not show severe functional impairment and no longer experienced attenuated psychotic symptoms at follow-up.

Read the full paper here:


Why do you think your paper is highly cited?

We show that treatment with a natural substance, without any clinically relevant side effects, may prevent, or at least delay, the onset of schizophrenia. More specifically, four people meeting at-risk criteria need to be treated with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) for 12 weeks to prevent one conversion to psychosis during a period of one year.

This is comparable in magnitude with the number needed to treat reported in clinical trials of antipsychotic medications but treatment with fish oil has a much higher acceptance by young people than treatment with antipsychotics. The most striking finding of the study is that the group differences were sustained after cessation of the intervention. Trials of antipsychotics have not found this.

Full interview:

My heads been on this all last week before the results came out.
Wouldn’t that mean countries like Japan that have a extreme diet of fish have fewer schizophrenics diagnosed per percentage then the rest of the world? I’m not sure that’s the case though?

Thats an interesting question.

Not all fish are high in omega 3 fatty acids (so just a fish diet might not be enough to change risk profiles) and I also think that its predominantly the older people in Japan that eat a lot of fish, I think the younger generations have decreased consumption.

Anyway - I don’t know the answer, but I can see why it might be true or not.

1 Like

Mind you, a lot of us stopped eating fish every Friday in the 70’s also. So that’s something else to consider.

1 Like

I wonder if fish oil also prevents or delays further episodes of psychosis in those who have already experienced an episode of psychosis. Or is it ineffective once full psychosis is present?

I remember at school Friday was fish day.

1 Like

The research seems to be very mixed on this - I’ve seen studies that show some benefit, and also studies that don’t show any benefit - so it seems like perhaps it could help some people, but definitely not a huge impact.

Whatever the case - the benefits in either early treatment, or later treatment are likely to be with the high EPA fish oil treatments - as mentioned here:

Just have them eat the real fish with sweet potatoes and Brussel sprouts what always fed my kid.

More recent research around this topic:


Effects of the PUFA-E condition on the vitamin E and glutathione AODS could be mechanisms underlying its clinical effectiveness. In terms of the vitamin E protection system, PUFA-E seems to directly support the antioxidative defense at membrane level. The effect of PUFA-E on GSHt is not yet fully understood, but could reflect antioxidative effects, resulting in decreased demand for glutathione. It is still necessary to further clarify which type of PUFA/antioxidant combination, and in which dose, is effective at each stage of psychotic illness.