Food supplements ‘could be used in early treatment of psychosis’

Nutrients found in food may help reduce the symptoms of psychotic illness, when used in the early stages of treatment, according to a new review published in Early Intervention in Psychiatry.

Having analysed data from eight independent clinical trials of nutrient supplementation in 457 young people in the early stages of psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia, the researchers found that nutrient supplementation could provide an effective ‘add on’ treatment.

Researchers found that certain nutrient supplements, used alongside standard treatment, may improve mental health in young people with psychosis more than standard treatment alone.

The study is the first evaluation of nutrient supplementation trials in ‘first-episode psychosis’.

Dr Firth, the lead author, said: ‘Nutrient supplementation in the treatment of mental illness is something which can be surrounded by both cynicism and ‘hype’. We conducted this review just to see if there is any ‘real evidence’ if such nutrients can actually help young people with psychosis.’

‘Certainly, there is early indication that certain nutrients may be beneficial, not to replace standard treatment, but as an ‘add-on’ treatment for some patients.’

One of the nutrients reviewed was Taurine, an amino-acid found in foods such as shellfish and turkey.

A clinical trial conducted in Melbourne in 121 young patients with psychosis found that 4 grams of Taurine per day reduced psychotic symptoms within just 12 weeks.

Certain antioxidant supplements, such as n-acetyl cysteine and vitamin C, may also be effective – particularly in patients with high levels of ‘oxidative stress’.

Studies on omega-3 supplements showed that although these appear to improve brain health in young people with psychosis, the evidence for actually reducing psychotic symptoms is conflicting.

‘We have to be careful to replicate the results of these initial studies before jumping to firm conclusions,’ Dr. Firth added.