Increasingly research studies have supported the benefits of adding Omega 3 fatty acids or fish oils to our diet. The benefits of the newest study outlined in the February 28, issue of Neurology suggests adding DHA and EPA (specific omega-3 fatty acids) are associated with better cognitive functioning in adulthood. The researchers examined adult performance on standard cognitive tests and found the individuals who had lower levels of omega 3 acids had less grey matter in the brain and scored lower on tests of visual memory, executive functioning and abstract thinking.  This new information provides additional support to the research on omega-3 acids and heart health.

In addition to cognitive functioning, researchers are also looking at the possible benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in preventing the onset of psychosis. The preliminary research published in 2010 Archives of General Psychiatry examined adolescents and young adults with emerging symptoms of psychosis. The participants who received omega-3 acids for a 12 week course (as compared to placebo) showed a significant decrease in the progression of psychotic symptoms. The benefits of the omega-3 acids were sustained after one year. This research is being continued in a large scale double-blind study to provide increased support for the initial findings. This study supports benefits of utilizing omega-3 fatty acids in place of psychotropic medications. These results are impressive and exciting in terms of what the data may represent for the future of psychiatry.

Another study published in the 2011 Nature Neuroscience Journal also found correlations between depression and low levels of omega-3 fatty acids. The deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids is common in Western diets and may provide evidence as to the relationship between depressive mood disorders. Overall, the continued research in exploring the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids provides hope for non-pharmacological methods to treating behavioral health symptoms. There is promise in the hope of integrating alternative treatment methods in addition to standard medication management models.

Meghan Marcum, PsyD

Clinical Psychologist

Orange County Psychiatry & Addiction Medicine