Food and Behaviour Research

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Essential fatty acids and mental illness.

Vaddadi K (2006) Int Rev Psychiatry 18(2) 81-4. 

Web URL: View this and related abstracts via PubMed here


The treatment of psychiatric illness requires novel pharmacological strategies. There is a growing body of evidence examining the role of neuronal phospholipid abnormalities in the pathogenesis of psychiatric illness, particularly in schizophrenia.

However, work in other conditions like mood disorders are also showing interesting outcomes with EPA supplementation. Diseases that are considered to have a genetic basis may be significantly influenced by environmental factors including dietary supplementation. The suggestion that EFA supplementation may prevent the onset of symptoms of a psychiatric disease or aberrant behaviour needs longitudinal randomized controlled research.

In recent years the focus has shifted from omega-6 to omega-3. It is true that western diets have far more omega-6 than omega-3. In the 1980s, there were positive outcomes in research studies using GLA in schizophrenia (Vaddadi et al., 1989). Future research needs to incorporate studies using pure GLA. Research should not be restricted to parent fatty acid (omega-3) supplementation alone but be expanded to include bioactive down-the-chain metabolites. The recent identification of novel omega-3 derived mediators such as resolvins and neuroprotectins, which are a highly bioactive (1-10 nMol range), may well have some role to play in psychiatric disorders; however this remains highly speculative at this stage.