Researchers have found that adolescents with lower levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in their blood are more likley to develop psychosis as they enter adulthood.
For the study, the researchers examined data from over 3,800 individuals from Bristol’s Children of the 90’s health study. In this study, participants were assessed for psychotic disorder, depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder at ages 17 and 24.
Blood samples were also collected from the participants, indicating their levels of omega-6 fatty acids, known to increase inflammation in the body, and omega-3 fatty acids, known to reduce inflammation in the body.
All in all, the researchers found that while fatty acids indicated little about mental health at age 17, by age 24, those with higher ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 were more likely to have a psychotic disorder, depressive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.
The researchers also found that 24-year-olds with lower levels of DHA fatty acid, an omega-3 fatty acid typically found in fish, also tended to have psychotic disorder more often than those with higher levels. Among over 2,700 young people, the researchers found that those with higher levels of DHA at age 17 were 56% less likely to develop a psychotic disorder by age 24.
While interesting findings, the researchers say that their results are not without limitations. They note that just 20 cases of psychosis remained in the longitudinal sample, and their original sample was subject to a high rate of attrition following a socio-economic gradient. This means that their findings may be exaggerated.
“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,” says Professor David Cotter, senior author of the study.
“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.”