Eating fish or taking fish oil supplements has some wonderful effects, and perhaps the most significant of those are how the fatty acids found in fish help the brain. Today we report the results of a 7-year study showing more long-term benefits.
Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that usually requires daily medication to control the symptoms, and the early symptoms of this disorder often occur in late childhood. The purpose of this Australian and European study was to see if young adults who were at high risk of developing schizophrenia could avoid developing the disorder if their diet was supplemented with fish oil.
81 individuals were studied, from 13 to 25 years old at the start of the research. Each of these subjects were experiencing transient hallucinations or delusional thinking; or were failing at home, school, or work, and had a strong family history of mental disorder.
At the start of the study, half of the subjects were given a three month course of fish oil supplementation, consisting of omega-3 fatty acids in a concentration that you might find in commercially bought supplements —700 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 480 mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The other half of the volunteers were given a placebo pill instead.
Seven years later all 81 subjects were again studied. It was found that of the group that had received the placebo, 40% had developed all the symptoms of schizophrenia. But of those who had received the 3-month supplementation with the omega-3 fatty acids, less than 10% were schizophrenic. Besides schizophrenia, other mental disorders were less frequent in this group as well.
The mid- to late teenage years are critical for brain development, and the researchers hypothesize that the fatty acid supplements helped stabilize the brain cells in these adolescents at risk.
Fish oil or omega-3 fatty acids have already been shown, in numerous studies, to be beneficial for the brain. They help brain cells regenerate, decrease inflammation, and increase the availability of the brain’s neurotransmitters. They have been shown to improve the effect of anti-depressant medications, and also can help people who have perfectly normal brains.
For example, young adults given fish oil supplements have been shown to have better short-term memories, and eating fish or taking fish oil supplements have been strongly linked to eye and heart health. Many studies are being conducted using omega-3 fatty acid supplements to try to delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The current study gives more evidence that fish is important for brain functioning. If you don’t eat fish several times per week, you might be smart to consider fish oil tablets.
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