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Fish Oil May Fight Psychosis


4 Star

Fish Oil May Fight Psychosis

Our Review Summary

This news story reports on results from a recent randomized trial, which found that taking fish oil capsules reduces the risk of psychosis in high-risk teens. While the results of this study seem exciting, this story tempers this excitement by indicating that further research is needed, particularly to determine if the same results can be seen in older people or those who already have a pyschotic disorder. While this story addresses many of our criteria, it would have been beneficial for the readers to know more about the cost, formulation, and dosage of the fish oil supplement used in the trial. In addition, commentary from independent experts in the field would have strengthened the piece.        


Why This Matters

The notion that people could potentially prevent a severely debilitating mental illness through what appears to be a safe, inexpensive and widely available dietary supplement is highly attractive. However, it would be helpful for the reader to know more about the specific supplement used in the trial, as dietary supplements not regulated by the FDA can vary widely.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

There was no mention of the cost of dietary fish oil supplements. 

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


This story clearly tells us that after one year, 11 out of 40 people in the placebo group developed a psychotic disorder, compared to 2 of the 41 people in the fish oil group. Additionally, the writer also presents the data in terms of number needed to treat (NNT), which tells the reader that 4 people need to take fish oil supplements for 12 weeks in order for 1 person to benefit. More information on what defines psychosis would have been helpful.  

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?


As the story indicates, fish oil supplements are not associated with serious side effects, unlike antipsychotic drugs that can lead to weight gain and sexual dysfunction.  The story might have noted that some people taking fish oil supplements have reported mild gastrointestinal side effects (e.g. diarrhea).

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?


The story did a nice job describing the study methods, specifically pointing out that half the teens and young adults received a placebo pill and half received a fish oil pill. It also mentioned that the results of this small trial should be interpreted with caution and additional studies are needed to determine if the same results can be seen in people with established psychosis, as well as those who are older.  

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


The story does not appear to exaggerate the prevalence of psychotic disorders in teens and young adults.  

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not include commentary from any independent sources.  Furthermore, the quote provided by the study authors was pulled directly from the discussion section of the article.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


The story briefly compares the efficacy of fish oil supplements to antipsychotic medications and “other interventions.” However, more specific information on this would have been useful.  Additionally, it would have been helpful to know that participants in both groups received psychosocial and psychological interventions.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


Fish oil pills sold as dietary supplements are widely available; however, supplement formulations can vary widely and some may only be available with a prescription. More information on the specific formulation used in the study, as well as the dosage would have been useful.


Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


This story does a nice job of setting the stage by saying that patients with psychriatric disorders have been found to have low levels of omega 3; hence the need for trials to study fish oil pills in these patients.  The story also points out that other studies have evaluated the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on depression and other psychiatric disorders; however, the results of these studies have been mixed.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Not Applicable

There does not appear to be a news release associated with this story.  

Total Score: 7 of 9 Satisfactory


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