Schizophrenia is a chronic condition that significantly impacts the individual and the family. The disorder also has wider consequences for society in terms of significant costs to the economy. This highly prevalent condition affects approximately 1% of the worldwide population, yet there are few therapeutic options.
The predominant treatment strategy for schizophrenia is anti-psychotic medication (with or without additional talking therapy) even though this approach lacks efficacy in managing the negative symptoms of the condition, is not effective in one-third of the patient group and the side effects of the medication can be severe and debilitating.
In recent years, a number of pathophysiological processes have been identified in groups of people with schizophrenia including oxidative stress, one-carbon metabolism and immune-mediated responses. A number of studies have shown that these altered physiological mechanisms can be ameliorated by nutritional interventions in some individuals with schizophrenia.
This review published in Nutrition Journal by Megan Anne Arroll1*, Lorraine Wilder2 and James Neil2 briefly describes the aforementioned processes and outlines research that has investigated the utility of nutritional approaches as an adjunct to anti-psychotic medication which includes:
- Antioxidant and vitamin B supplementation,
- Neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory nutrients and
- Exclusion diets as an adjunct to anti-psychotic medication
- Oxidative stress and the benefits of supplementation
- N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)
- Alpha lipoic acid (ALA)
- Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine)
- Vitamins C and E
- Essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)
- One carbon metabolism and B vitamins
- Folate and B vitamin supplementation
- Immune-mediated responses and the therapeutic benefits of casein- and gluten-free diets
- Vitamin D as a risk factor for the development of schizophrenia
While none of these interventions provides a ‘one-size-fits-all’ therapeutic solution, the authors suggest that a personalized approach warrants research attention as there is growing agreement that schizophrenia is a spectrum disorder that develops from the interplay between environmental and genetic factors.