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Diet rich in omega-6 fatty acids stimulates psychoses

A diet containing fewer omega-6 fatty acids and more omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the chance of a psychosis. Polish psychiatrists, working at the University of Lodz, report this in Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids.

Fatty acids and your brain
It may just be the case that our dietary pattern of relatively large amounts of omega-6 fatty acids and relatively small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids is making us collectively crazy. Scientists like Joseph Hibbeln have been saying this for years. [Guardian October 17, 2006] Omega-6 fatty acids may be converted in the body into inflammatory factors that increase the chance of developing depression, aggression and dishonest behaviour, [Physiol Behav. 2009 Jan 8;96(1):180-3.] and cause psychoses.

When people experience a psychosis they lose touch with reality. They see and hear things that are not there. The hallucinations that occur during a psychosis are so all-encompassing that the sufferer can no longer function. A person undergoing a psychotic episode may be a danger to him or herself and can sometimes also be a danger to those near them.

The Poles wanted to find out whether they could detect a relationship between the intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and the likelihood of a psychosis.

The researchers followed 62 people with a high risk of psychosis for one year. The participants had experienced short psychotic episodes, had family members who suffered from psychoses or showed symptoms of an impending psychosis.

During the year that the study lasted, some participants did indeed experience a psychotic episode; others did not. The researchers compared the intake of polyunsaturated fats in both groups. They also compared the fatty acid intake of the whole group with a control group of 33 healthy participants.

The participants who experienced psychotic episodes had consumed more omega-6 fatty acids that the participants in the other groups.

Diet rich in omega-6 fatty acids stimulates psychoses

In both high-risk groups the intake of omega-3 fatty acids was noticeably lower than in the control group.

Diet rich in omega-6 fatty acids stimulates psychoses

The ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids was lowest in the control group, and highest in the group of participants who experienced a psychosis during the experiment.

Diet rich in omega-6 fatty acids stimulates psychoses

"The present study shows that PUFA consumption patterns of n-6 and n-3 PUFA can be associated with transition to psychosis in high risk individuals", the researchers wrote. "Larger studies that allow for control of confounders are necessary to establish the possible role of PUFA consumption as an independent risk factor for transition to psychosis in high risk individuals."

"The results of our study beg the question of whether dietary intervention using PUFA-rich products (e.g. Mediterranean diet) can be sufficient and effective in reducing the risk of transition into psychosis in high risk individuals."

Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2016 May;108:30-7.

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