A new study has revealed that certain nutrients may help to reduce the symptoms of psychotic illness when used in the early stages of treatment.
The systematic review, led by Dr Firth, honorary Research Fellow at The University of Manchester and Research Fellow at NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University, examined if nutrient supplementation could provide effective add on treatment for young people suffering with psychosis.
A total of eight independent clinical trials of nutrient supplementation in 457 young people in the early stages of psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia, were used as part of the review, which has been published in the journal, Early Intervention in Psychiatry.
The researchers found that certain nutrient supplements, used alongside standard treatment, may improve mental health in young people with psychosis more than standard treatment alone.
In what was the first evaluation of nutrient supplementation trials in ‘first-episode psychosis’ (FEP), Dr Firth commented: “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 nutrient 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 4g per day reduced psychotic symptoms within just 12 weeks. Furthermore, certain antioxidant supplements, such as n-acetyl cysteine and vitamin C, may also be effective – particularly for 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 cautioned. “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.”
The team is launching a new clinical trial, in which all of the potentially beneficial nutrients are combined within a single supplement, and provided to young people with psychosis.