NIH Workshop: Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids and Psychiatric Disorders
September 2-3, 1998, National Institutes of Health

Essential fatty acids are critical components of synaptic membranes available solely from dietary sources, for which efficacy in treatment of numerous psychiatric disorders has been emerging worldwide.
Selected lectures:
1. Introduction Richard Nakamura, Ph.D., NIMH, notes the limited data on important concepts which workshop participants must carefully build into further studies.

2. Essential fatty acid status and markers of serotonergic neurotransmission, in alcoholism and suicide. Joseph R. Hibbeln, M.D., NIAAA- — The World Heath Organization estimates that major depression is the greatest single cause of years of life lost to disability worldwide, although its annual prevalence has nearly a 60-fold variation across countries. Depression is associated with a greater risk of morbidity and mortality from heart disease, and a low dietary intake of EPA and DHA may be a common factor relating the psychological states of depression and suicidality to heart disease. Fish consumption appears to be an important protective factor which is strongly associated with a lower annual prevalence of major depression (r= !0.84, p<0.005).

3. Bipolar disorder: Observational and interventional studies. Andrew Stoll, M.D., Harvard Univ. ) —Omega-3 fatty acids may inhibit neuronal signal transduction pathways in a manner similar to lithium and valproate, two effective treatments for bipolar disorder. The omega-3 fatty acids in concentrated fish oil (EPA and DHA) exhibited mood-stabilizing properties in bipolar disorder in a 4-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Aberrant post-synaptic signal transduction mechanisms may be involved in the pathophysiology of bipolar disorder.
4. Intervention trials of essential fatty acids in schizophrenia. Malcolm Peet, M.D., Univ. Sheffield — Medicated schizophrenic patients have depleted levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids in cell membranes. Two independent supplementation studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids as an adjunct to existing antipsychotic drug treatment lead to significant clinical improvement in treatment resistant schizophrenic patients. A preliminary double blind trail comparing EPA, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and placebo showed a significant treatment effect for EPA, but not DHA, when used as an adjunct to antipsychotic drugs.

5. Hostility and noradrenergic changes in double blind placebo intervention trial. Tomohito Hamazaki, M.D., Ph.D., Toyama University. — Hostility is one of the risk factors of cardiovascular disease, and fish oils are well-known to have beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease. The plasma noradrenaline concentration in healthy volunteer students under the continuous psychological stress of final exams was significantly decreased (!31%) with DHA supplementation, whereas it stayed at the same level in the control group. The plasma ratio of adrenaline to noradrenaline was increased in every DHA subject (+78%) p<0.02), and intergroup differences were significant (p<0.03).