Science Update: Omega-3 supplements may reduce schizotypal personality symptoms, NIH-funded study suggests

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Children who took a nutritional supplement containing omega-3 fatty acids lowered their scores for schizotypal personality, a mental health condition featuring unusual thoughts, speech, and behaviors that hinder the ability to form relationships. Results of the early study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), suggest that regular supplementation in childhood could prevent more severe symptoms from developing by adolescence.

The study was conducted by Adrian Raine, D.Phil., at the University of Pennsylvania, and colleagues. It appears in Schizophrenia Bulletin. NIH funding was provided by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.


Omega-3s are important components of cell membranes. Their levels are high in the eye and brain, and they also have many functions in the heart, blood vessels, lungs, and immune system.

In previous studies, the authors found that improving children’s nutrition improved their brain functioning at age 11 and reduced symptoms of schizotypal personality in adolescence. Because the children in those studies ate more fish per week than the children in the control group, the authors theorized that omega-3s, high in certain fish, may have played a role in reducing schizotypy symptoms. Both previous studies were conducted in Mauritius, a country in East Africa.


For the current study, researchers sought to determine if supplementing American children’s diets with omega-3s would reduce schizotypy symptoms. They analyzed data from a previous study that tested whether an omega-3 supplement would reduce aggressive behavior in children. Participants in that study had responded to a questionnaire measuring the symptoms of schizotypy.

In the current study, 290 children ages 11 and 12  were divided into four groups: those receiving a fruit-flavored drink containing four omega-3 fatty acids, those receiving a behavioral intervention designed to reduce anger and aggression, those receiving the drink and the intervention, and a control group whose caregivers were given a list of community-based resources where they could seek help for their child. Children took the supplement for three months. The behavioral intervention was administered in the children’s homes for one hour a week, each week, for three months.

At the end of three months, the omega-3 only and the omega-3 and behavioral therapy groups scored significantly lower than the other groups. On a scale from 4 to 9, the omega-3 only group dropped from an average of 8.204 to 6.376, the omega-3 and intervention group dropped from 8.204 to 7.007, the intervention-only group went from 8.204 to 7.254, and the control group went from 8.204 to 7.991. When treatment ended, the authors wrote, schizotypy was reduced by 28% in the omega-3 group and by 21.3% in the omega-3/therapy group. Similar differences in scores were seen three months after supplementation and intervention had ended. However, differences between groups faded by six months.


The authors concluded that routine supplementation with omega-3 might reduce schizotypal symptoms in children. Assuming the results can be verified in other studies, the authors said that omega-3 supplementation in childhood could potentially reduce the effects of schizotypal personality disorder in adolescence, when symptoms often become more pronounced.


Rain, A, et al. Omega-3 supplementation reduces schizotypal personality in children: a randomized controlled trial. Schizophrenia Bulletin (2024).

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