Omega-3 fatty acids are also useful in treating a variety of disorders including Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, and Autism. There have been many studies done, some of which were even cut short because of their unexpected positive results. Dr. Andrew Stoll was one of the researchers involved in these studies and talks about the benefits of Omega-3's in treating depression in his book The Omega-3 Connection. He did, however, treat patients with Bipolar Disorder in some of his trials.
There has even been some speculation and research into how and why Omega-3 supplementation benefits people with mental illness. This led to the Phospholipid Hypothesis of Schizophrenia. One school of thought is that Omega-3's work by modulating signal transduction in nerve cells in a way similar to that of Valproate and Lithium, drugs often used in the treatment of Bipolar Disorder.
The active chemicals in Omega-3 oils and capsules are ecosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and decosahexaenoic acid, or DHA. The amount of EPA and DHA in most Omega-3 capsules is pretty low. It's a good idea, if you're using it for the purpose of treating or aiding in the treatment of a mental illness, to buy it as an oil and check the label to make sure
the ratio and the amount are appropriate. In some of the trials done the patients were treated with at least 6 grams EPA per day or higher.
If you're experiencing side-effects of medications, or experience negative symptoms in Schizophrenia, such as trouble with memory or concentration, then augmenting your treatment with Omega-3's may help. It's generally a good idea to check with your doctor but Omega-3's are pretty harmless, even when taken in extremely large quantities, so trying them yourself isn't a bad idea either.
One thing to note is that fish oils oxidize very easily and taking Vitamin E, which is an antioxidant, can help reduce any additional oxidant stress on the body.
The Bottom Line: Omega-3's have chemical properties that do affect brain function. Further research is still being done on how they work, and it is becoming increasingly clear that they do have therapeutic value.