OXFORD, UK. The Cochrane Library, a prestigious medical think-tank dedicated to the development of evidence-based medicine, has just released a review of the evidence concerning the use of polyunsaturated fatty acids (fish oils and evening primrose oil) in the treatment of schizophrenia. A wide- ranging literature survey revealed 4 studies that met the Library's stringent quality measures. The most recent study (Shah 2000) included 30 newly diagnosed schizophrenia patients who were not on antipsychotic drugs at the beginning of the trial. The patients were randomized to receive either a placebo or a daily dose of eicosapentaenoate (quantity not specified). At the end of the 12 weeks all the patients in the placebo group needed to be placed on antipsychotic drugs. Only 9 of the 15 patients in the active treatment group needed these drugs after the 12 weeks.
Another study (Peet 1997) compared evening primrose oil supplementation with placebo in 43 schizophrenics. The patients' mental state was not improved in either the placebo or the treatment group after 12 weeks. A third study involving 29 schizophrenics compared supplementation with fish oil to evening primrose oil and found fish oil superior.
The researchers conclude that fish oils may be useful in the treatment of schizophrenia and that medical doctors should not discourage their patients from taking fish oil supplements. They add that fish oils seem to be well tolerated and free of adverse effects.
Joy, CB, et al. Polyunsaturated fatty acid (fish or evening primrose oil) for schizophrenia. The Cochrane Library, Issue 4, 2000