Dr. Patricia Farrell on Medika Life

Salmon Is Taking Center Stage in Kids’ Personality Disorders

Research is broadening its attention to dietary supplements and foods to address several disorders, and the latest is for kids with schizotypal personalities.

Considerations of diet, as it relates to mental health or psychological issues, have been gaining traction in professional publications — and with good reason. A hefty number of articles in the past decade point toward serious consideration of healthcare professionals writing prescriptions for specific foods or diets. And it’s not simply about how gut health plays an important role in mental health; now, research is directed toward personality formation.

A seeming relationship appeared to exist between eating salmon and the incidence of a specific mental health disorder. The earlier research, omega-3, indicated it could lower schizotypy because people who ate more fish when they were 3 to 5 years old had lower rates of schizotypal personality disorder when they were 23 years old. New research has tested that idea.

A community group of 290 11–12-year-olds who met the criteria for conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, or high aggression scores on a standard test were included in the intention-to-treat, single-blind study. Three groups were entered into the study: omega-3 alone, CBT alone, and omega-3 and CBT togetherSchizotypy was down 25.7% in the omega-3-alone group and 36.6% in the omega-3-plus-CBT group three months after treatment.

Compared to the CBT group 9 months after treatment, the interpersonal schizotypy factor showed stronger effects in both omega-3 groups. Reductions in schizotypy were much stronger in people who ate a lot of omega-3 nutrients. The results have indications for benefit not simply to patients, but to society in general.

The high costs these behaviors have for society make finding ways to stop them important, if cost is the sole purpose of such research. I tend to dispute a dollars-and-cents approach and prefer the benefit shown to the patients.

One type of intervention is adding nutrients to the food. Research shows a link between insufficient nutrients and acting aggressively or antisocially. For instance, not getting enough food when you are 3 years old has been linked to acting aggressively and unsocially when you are 8, 11, and 17 years old. Also, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have shown that taking multivitamins and mineral supplements can help lower antisocial behavior.

Children not getting enough nutritional food are more likely to have problems with their brains and thinking, which can lead to behavior problems that appear in public throughout childhood and youth. The results show that cutting malnutrition in children may help lower antisocial and violent behavior later on. We know the need for specific nutrients for proper brain development at an early age, yet nutrition has received insufficient attention.

Many studies have been done over the years on the biological and social factors that make kids more likely to be aggressive. Still, surprisingly, little is known about how poor nutrition can lead to aggressive behavior in kids. It is not often that a nutrition shortage is looked at in terms of externalizing behavior. Still, many studies have shown that food additives, hypoglycemia, and, more recently, cholesterol, can change how people act. Why salmon and omega-3; how does it work?

Getting more omega-3 may help make up for the structural and functional problems seen in people who are aggressive and antisocial. This is because omega-3 helps control the activity of membrane enzymes, protects neurons from cell death, encourages neurite outgrowth, and improves synaptic functioning and dendritic branching. When viewed in these terms, salmon and its omega-3 seem like wonder drugs you can easily buy in the fish department of the market.

If most research points toward these supplements or salmon, one major problem remains even in the face of research singling out these supplements and salmon in particular. What is it? Finance plays a major role in household incomes; supplements and salmon can be expensive, ergo inaccessible, items to add to any shopping list.

Should local groups or the government begin to provide the supplements (we know they won’t give out fish vouchers) to help kids in terms of brain development and functioning? But the case must be viewed in the face of how violence, either proactive or reactive, adds to the local budgets, instills fear in the community, and may relegate young people to lives of despair or imprisonment. What is cheaper, a bottle of supplements or maintaining someone in a prison cell for years? It’s patently clear which is preferred.

The time for dietary medicine would seem to have come, and we have to wonder why it’s not being emphasized more.

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Pat Farrell PhD
Pat Farrell PhDhttps://medium.com/@drpatfarrell
I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.


Medika Editor: Mental Health

I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.

Patricia also acts in an editorial capacity for Medika's mental health articles, providing invaluable input on a wide range of mental health issues.

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