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Our diets and the sun play a major role in the development and treatment of schizophrenia

Our diets and the sun play a major role in the development and treatment of schizophreniaEarly stages of psychotic diseases such as schizophrenia are associated with deficiencies of specific nutrients like vitamin D and folic acid, according to a new Australian study. The researchers also point to new ways of preventing and treating psychotic disease, which affect millions of people worldwide.

Researchers from Western Sydney University have systematically reviewed vitamin and mineral deficiencies in patients undergoing their first treatment for psychotic disorders. The researchers believe that early diagnosis of and therapy for psychotic diseases like schizophrenia are determining for the future prospects, and they are now focusing on the diet and the use of specific nutritional supplements.

A psychotic disease is a mental disorder that causes the patient to hallucinate or to have delusions.

More than 21 million people worldwide have schizophrenia. The disease normally starts at the age of 15-30 years. The serious symptoms and the impaired quality of life cause the patients to die 15-20 years earlier than others.
Earlier studies have shown a relation between prolonged schizophrenia and lack off different nutrients like vitamins A, B, C, and D, but no earlier studies have looked at the different deficiency problems that occur in the early stages of psychotic disorders.
The researchers from Western Sydney University collected 28 studies and looked at blood levels of six vitamins and 10 minerals in 2,612 participants.
They assessed all the blood samples right after the first psychotic diagnosis of e.g. schizophrenia. In other words before the patients were given anti-psychotic therapy or at the beginning of their treatment.

Lack of vitamin D and folic acid increases the risk of psychotic disorders

The scientists found that early stages of psychotic disorders are associated with deficiencies of essential nutrients, particularly low blood levels of vitamin D and folic acid (vitamin B9).
Also, they observed a link between low of levels of the mentioned nutrients and aggravation of the physical and mental health state of patients with psychotic diseases.
They found no significant relation with the other vitamins and minerals. This may be because these nutrients have only been studied in a few trials, which means that there is a need for more and larger studies.

Sources of folic acid and deficiency causes

Folic acid is found in liver, cabbage and other vegetables, nuts, sprouts, fruit, and dairy products. Deficiency and poor utilization of the nutrient may be caused by a bad diet, unhealthy intestinal microflora, pregnancy, smoking, overconsumption of alcohol, narcotics, medicine, and birth control pills.

Sources of vitamin D and deficiency causes

Vitamin D is found in cod liver, cod roe, and oily fish, eggs, avocado, oils, and high-fat dairy products. The richest source of vitamin D is sunlight during the summertime. Many people become deficient if they get too little sun or don’t take supplements during the winter.
Pregnancy, dark skin, ageing processes, overweight, diabetes, and cholesterol-lowering medicine can increase the need for vitamin D.

Supplements with targeted nutrients

According to Joseph Firth, who headed the new study, these discoveries may lead to the introduction of dietary changes as part of standard therapy for early psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Such psychotic disorders may also be caused by genetic and environmental factors. Nonetheless, Firth says that it is important to acknowledge that lacking nutrients may contribute to the problems with poor physical and mental health, which are often seen in young psychotic sufferers. Different nutrient deficiencies may also trigger a psychotic disease more easily in people who are already genetically predisposed to the disease. As seen in the new study, deficiencies may also exacerbate the condition. Firth therefore suggests giving supplements with targeted nutrients that are able to improve the standard treatment, although the theory has not yet been tested.


Nutritional Deficiencies and Clinical Correlates in First-Episode Psychosis: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Schizophrenia Bulletin. (2017)

Western Sydney University. Nutrition may play a key role in early psychosis treatment.

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