According to new research, adolescents who had greater levels of an omega-3 fatty acid in their blood were less likely to acquire psychotic illness in early adulthood, indicating that it may have a possible preventative impact in lowering the risk of psychosis.
Could Omega-3 Fatty Acids Potentially Prevent Psychosis?
Video Credit: RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences.
The study, headed by RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences researchers, was published in the Translational Psychiatry journal.
More than 3,800 people in Bristol’s Children’s of the 90s health study were evaluated for psychotic illness, depressive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder at the ages of 17 and 24 years.
Blood samples were obtained during these evaluations, and the researchers assessed the levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which normally promote inflammation in the body, and omega-3 fatty acids, which normally lower inflammation.
While there was minimal evidence that fatty acids were linked to mental problems at the age of 17, researchers discovered that 24-year-olds with depressive disorder, psychotic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder had greater levels of omega-6 fatty acids than individuals without these problems.
The researchers also discovered that those aged 24 with psychotic illness had lower levels of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in oily fish or nutritional supplements, than people aged 24 without psychotic illness.
Adolescents with greater levels of DHA at age 17 were 56% less likely to develop psychotic illness seven years later at age 24, according to a study of over 2,700 people. This shows that DHA throughout adolescence may have a preventive impact by lowering the incidence of psychosis in early adulthood.
When additional characteristics like BMI, gender, cigarette use, and socioeconomic level were taken into consideration, the results were consistent.
The study needs to be replicated, but if the findings are consistent, these results would suggest that enhanced dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids among adolescents, such as through oily fish like mackerel, could prevent some people from developing psychosis in their early twenties. The results could also raise questions about the relationship between the development of mental health disorders and omega-6 fatty acids, which are typically found in vegetable oils.”
David Cotter, Study Senior Author and Professor, Molecular Psychiatry, RCSI
The data was analyzed by David Mongan, an RCSI Ph.D. student and Irish Clinical Academic Training (ICAT) Fellow, under the direction of Professor David Cotter and Professor Mary Cannon from the RCSI Department of Psychiatry.
The Wellcome Trust and the Health Research Board, the Health Service Executive National Doctors Training and Planning, and the Health and Social Care, Research and Development Division, Northern Ireland all contribute to the ICAT initiative.
We need to do more research to learn about the mechanisms behind this effect, but it could possibly be related to reducing inflammation or decreasing inappropriate pruning of brain connections during adolescence.”
Dr David Mongan, Study First Author and Psychiatry Trainee, RCSI
Mongan is also a Ph.D. student at RCSI.
Mongan, D., et al. (2021) Plasma polyunsaturated fatty acids and mental disorders in adolescence and early adulthood: cross-sectional and longitudinal associations in a general population cohort. Translational Psychiatry. doi.org/10.1038/s41398-021-01425-4.