Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Is your chia pet a hidden nutritional surprise?

Risperidone (Risperdal) is a common antipsychotic medication that was recently investigated for its influence on omega-3 fatty acid metabolism.

Rats were placed on two different diets, one containing alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and one that was ALA-deficient. Then both groups were administered a dose of risperidone.

This research design was used because ALA can be converted to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and the purpose of the study was to evaluate the influence of risperidone on this conversion.

In rats not fed ALA, there was a significant increase in tissue DHA in the presence of risperidone, suggesting that this medication helps to increase the conversion of ALA to DHA. When there was ALA in the diet, this was not observed, suggesting that when there is enough ALA available, there is no need for any augmentation of pre-existing mechanisms.

Some questions and comments:

1. This will be an interesting line of research to determine whether schizophrenia is related to nutritional imbalances and/or deficiencies, whether there might be different types of schizophrenia, some nutritionally instigated and aggravated, others not.

2. Seems that a dietary strategy of increased ALA isn't a bad idea if you struggle with schizophrenia.

3. At this point, it is NOT rational to assume that increasing dietary ALA will eliminate the need for antipsychotic medications.

4. At the same time, it doesn't make sense to use a prescription medication to correct a nutritionally-relevant problem.

If you balance the diet and focus on adequate ALA, the amount of medication you might actually need might decrease, therefore reducing the risk of metabolic side effects.

For those who are interested, foods that are good sources of ALA include: canola oil, whole soybeans, walnuts, salva (chia), ground flaxseeds, and flaxseed oil.

McNamara RK, Able JA, Jandacek R, Rider T, Tso P. Chronic risperidone treatment preferentially increases rat erythrocyte and prefrontal cortex omega-3 fatty acid composition: Evidence for augmented biosynthesis. Schizophr Res. 2009 Feb;107(2-3):150-7. Epub 2008 Nov 7.

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