LONDON, UK. There is evidence that schizophrenia is associated with an abnormal metabolism of unsaturated fatty acids in both blood plasma and red blood cells. This abnormality, in turn, is associated with extraordinary low levels of long-chain unsaturated fatty acids such as AA, EPA and DHA (arachidonic, eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids, respectfully) in cell membranes.
Researchers at the Imperial College School of Medicine now report that fatty acid levels can be restored to normal and schizophrenia symptoms eliminated or at least vastly diminished by oral supplementation with EPA. Their experiment involved a 30-year-old man who had suffered from schizophrenia for over 10 years. He had frequent (at least daily) hallucinations and also suffered from persecutory delusions and thought disorder. The patient was put on 2 grams/day of EPA and was evaluated for schizophrenia symptoms and blood plasma and red blood cell membrane levels of fatty acids at monthly intervals for 6 months. The results were spectacular. After 6 months the overall score for schizophrenia symptoms had dropped by a factor of 6 (an 85% reduction in severity). Episodes of delusions were completely eliminated and there was an 88% reduction in the number of hallucinatory episodes.
The remarkable clinical improvement in symptoms was associated with substantial increases in the levels of AA, EPA and DHA in red blood cell membranes and with significant increases in EPA and DHA levels in blood plasma. The researchers conclude that EPA supplementation is able to reverse the abnormal fatty acid profiles found in schizophrenics and that this reversal is associated with, and is likely to be the cause of, the clinical improvement.
Richardson, A.J., et al. Red cell and plasma fatty acid changes accompanying symptom remission in a patient with schizophrenia treated with eicosapentaenoic acid. European Neuropsychopharmacology, Vol. 10, 2000, pp. 189-93