Food and Behaviour Research

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Eicosapentaenoic acid in the treatment of schizophrenia and depression: rationale and preliminary double-blind clinical trial results.

Peet, M. (2003) Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids.  69(6) 477-85 

Web URL: View this and related abstracts via Pubmed here


It has been hypothesised that polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) play an important role in the aetiology of schizophrenia and depression.

Evidence supporting this hypothesis for schizophrenia includes abnormal brain phospholipid turnover shown by 31P Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, increased levels of phospholipase A2, reduced niacin skin flush response, abnormal electroretinogram, and reduced cell membrane levels of n-3 and n-6 PUFA.

In depression, there is strong epidemiological evidence that fish consumption reduces risk of becoming depressed and evidence that cell membrane levels of n-3 PUFA are reduced.

Four out of five placebo-controlled double- blind trials of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in the treatment of schizophrenia have given positive findings.

In depression, two placebo-controlled trials have shown a strong therapeutic effect of ethyl-EPA added to existing medication.

The mode of action of EPA is currently not known, but recent evidence suggests that arachidonic acid (AA) is of particular importance in schizophrenia and that clinical improvement in schizophrenic patients using EPA treatment correlates with changes in AA.