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Nutrition’s Role in Early Psychosis Treatment

Early psychosis is associated with nutritional deficiencies, potentially presenting new avenues for improving health among the millions of people affected worldwide.

Previous research has shown a strong correlation between long-term schizophrenia and various nutritional deficiencies, including vitamins B, C, D and E. However, until now no one has assessed the full range of nutritional deficiencies during the first episode of psychosis.

Now research published in Schizophrenia Bulletin has assessed 28 studies examining the blood levels of six vitamins and 10 minerals across 2612 individuals. All participants were assessed either immediately after presenting with psychotic disorders (such as schizophrenia) for the first time, prior to antipsychotic treatment, or within the early stages of treatment.

The study found that early psychosis is associated with large deficits in the blood levels of vitamin B9 (folate) and vitamin D. Furthermore, these nutritional deficiencies were associated with worse mental health in young people with early psychosis.

Although the review found no significant differences for other vitamins and minerals, the researchers said that there were only a small number of studies that examined these nutrients, so they could not be ruled out until further research could determine their importance.

Lead author, Dr Joseph Firth of Western Sydney University, said the findings could ultimately see nutritional interventions added into standard treatments of early psychosis. “Our research has found vitamin D and folate deficiencies, previously observed in long-term schizophrenia, exist right from illness onset, and are associated with worse symptoms among young people with psychosis.

“Since both of these nutrients are vital for physical and psychological well-being, this finding emphasises the importance of promoting a healthy diet for young people with psychosis, and potentially suggests adding targeted nutritional supplementation to standard treatment could improve recovery – although this theory has yet to be tested.”

Senior author Prof Jerome Sarris adds: “While the results of our data analysis reveal that nutrient deficiencies are endemic in people suffering from first-episode psychosis, further work is needed to determine whether this is a by-product of the disorder, an effect from psychiatric medications, or whether lifestyle factors are to blame.”