A scientific paper has revealed that certain nutrients found in food may help reduce the symptoms of psychotic illness when used in the early stages of treatment.
The review, led by Dr Joseph Firth, honorary research fellow at the University of Manchester, UK, and research fellow at NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University, examined if nutrient supplementation could provide effective ‘add on’ treatment for young people with a psychotic illness.
The research team collated data from eight independent clinical trials of nutrient supplementation in 457 young people in the early stages of a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia.
It was found that certain nutrient supplements used alongside standard treatment may improve the mental health of young people suffering from psychosis more than the standard treatment alone.
A useful additional treatment
Firth 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.”
What supplements would be effective?
One of the nutrients reviewed was taurine, an amino acid found in foods such as shellfish and turkey. A clinical trial in Melbourne, Australia, comprising 121 young patients with psychosis found that 4g of taurine per day reduced psychotic symptoms within only 12 weeks.
Certain antioxidant supplements, such as n-acetyl cysteine and vitamin C, may also be effective – particularly for patients with high levels of ‘oxidative stress’.
Despite studies on omega-3 supplements showing that although these appear to improve brain health in young people with psychosis, the evidence for reducing psychotic symptoms is conflicting.
Further testing is needed
Now, researchers are aiming to replicate results of these initial studies by launching a new clinical trial, wherein all the potentially beneficial nutrients are to be combined within a single supplement and provided to young people suffering with psychosis.
Firth concluded: “Individual nutrients appear to have moderate effects on mental health, at best.
“A combined nutrient intervention, explicitly designed from the evidence-base in psychosis, may therefore confer larger and more beneficial effects for young people with this condition.
“We will be testing this in Sydney, Australia, in 2018 to learn more about the potential role of nutrition in mental health for the future.”