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Omega-3 fatty acids improve cognitive function in patients with schizophrenia and metabolic syndrome

Key clinical point: Omega-3 fatty acids may be effective in improving cognitive function and boosting levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in patients with schizophrenia and metabolic syndrome.

Major finding: At 12 weeks, a significant association was observed between omega-3 fatty acid treatment and enhanced delayed memory factor (Fgroup × time = 6.82; P = .01). Omega-3 fatty acid treatment was associated with a significant improvement in BDNF (P = .03) and reduction in the levels of C-reactive protein (CRP; P less than .01), interleukin-6 (IL-6; P less than .004), and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α; P =.012).

Study details: Patients with schizophrenia and metabolic syndrome were randomly assigned to receive omega-3 fatty acids (n = 37) or placebo (n = 35). Changes in BDNF, CRP, IL-6, and TNF-α levels from the baseline to 12 weeks were assessed.

Disclosures: The study was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China; the National Natural Science Foundation of China; the Shanghai Science and Technology Commission Foundation; the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission—Gaofeng Clinical Medicine Grant Support; the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning Foundation; and the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning, Key Developing Disciplines. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.


"Metabolic syndrome is common among individuals in schizophrenia and has a variety of negative outcomes, including poorer functioning and premature mortality due to medical complications. Omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with a variety of potential beneficial effects in people with serious mental illness, including schizophrenia. These authors examined effects on inflammatory biomarkers and brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNG), a marker of neuronal integrity, positing that anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects would be associated with omega-3 fatty acids among individuals with schizophrenia and metabolic syndrome. While interpretation should be tempered by study methodological limitations such as small sample size, findings add to the growing literature on the potential role of omega-3 fatty acid for individual with serious mental illness. "

Martha Sajatovic, MD
Professor of Psychiatry and of Neurology
Willard Brown Chair in Neurological Outcomes Research
Director, Neurological and Behavioral Outcomes Center, University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine


Tang W et al. Brain Behav Immun. 2020 Apr 15. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2020.04.034.