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Fish Oil and Mental Illness and Little Kids

fishoilRecently I had the opportunity of taking care of a three-year-old for a few days.  We had great fun, playing trucks, doing puzzles, going to the park.  There was giggling and unexpected moments of “ah ha” and the mandatory snuggling whether before bed or after a fall or just because.

One evening as he was tucked into bed, I thought about his future.  It began innocently enough, calling to mind his love of fire trucks and then picturing him rescuing someone from a burning house.  It followed with pictures of him in a classroom, teaching in new and creative ways.  And then the unbidden thought of him grown, struggling with mental illness.

Both sides of his family have met mental illness.  On one side, bi-polar and schizophrenia have been struggles; on the other depression and bi-polar.  With what we know about mental illness, the odds lean toward this three-year-old meeting mental illness in his life.

How can we stop that from happening?  Right now there is not enough research that gives us clues as to what can be done early in a child’s life with a family history of mental illness.  However, one first-of-its-kind study did discover that introducing fish oil early on a daily basis made a difference. The results of this small Austrian study found good evidence suggesting that severe mental illness might be prevented with a simple daily dosage of a fish oil supplement.

No one knows what causes schizophrenia and we know that no one knows what causes depression or other mental illnesses.  One hypothesis says the illnesses might be caused because particular people don’t process fatty acids correctly, leading to damaged brain cells.   Researchers speculate that Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil could help brain cells to repair and stabilize.

Although in the early stages and with only one complete study done, Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, chairman of psychiatry at ColumbiaUniversityMedicalCenter in New York who wasn’t involved in the study, said, “If it works, it will be an absolutely tremendous development.”

This research study is a beginning but it holds a lot of hope that my three-year-old friend and others like him might be able to dodge the bullet of mental illness and pursue their dreams.  Who knows – maybe one of them will grow up to become the scientist that solves the problems of the brain, helping us all live happy, productive lives.

-Bernadette

Read about the study here: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/35186424/ns/health-mental_health/

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