NMU 86 – The Amino Acid, L-Taurine, and Antioxidants Shown to Aid in Management of Psychosis (Schizophrenia)
Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update No. 86 (April 3, 2018)
with Dr. James Meschino
Topic: The Amino Acid, L-Taurine, and Antioxidants Shown to Aid in Management of Psychosis (Schizophrenia)
Source: Journal: Early Intervention in Psychiatry (March 2018)
Psychosis is an umbrella term that represents a range of severe mental health symptoms. The most notable is a loss of contact with reality where someone perceives things that are not real (known as hallucinations) or holds beliefs not based in reality (known as delusions). Psychosis usually has its first onset in a person’s late teens or early twenties and affects around three out of every 100 people in their lifetime. Antipsychotic medication is the first line treatment for psychosis, but it is not always effective, with a proportion of patients experiencing ongoing symptoms or unwanted side effects. Because of this, complementary treatment options have been explored in recent years.
The research paper I am citing today was published in the journal Early Intervention Psychiatry in March of 2018. The researchers conducted a systematic review of all available studies using various supplements, as a complement to the treatment of first-episode psychosis. The team brought together data from eight independent clinical trials of nutrient supplementation in 457 young people in the early stages of psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia.They concluded that from the available research there is early indication that certain nutrients may be beneficial, not to replace standard treatment, but as an ‘add-on’ treatment for some patients”
One nutrient showing great promise is L-Taurine, an amino acid found in foods such as shellfish and turkey. They cite an impressive clinical trial conducted in Melbourne involving 121 young patients with psychosis, which found that 4 grams of Taurine per day reduced psychotic symptoms within just 12 weeks. In another study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, researchers allocated 47 patients to receive four grams of taurine, and 39 patients to receive a placebo, once a day over a 12-week period. Prior to the trial, they assessed their psychiatric symptoms, cognition, social and occupational functioning, tolerance to medication and side effects. They tested these again at six and 12 weeks. The researchers stated “our positive results provide evidence for the potential benefits of taurine as a safe, complementary treatment for psychosis and possibly other mental health conditions. A study conducted as far back as 1977 suggested taurine may help reduce severe psychiatric symptoms such as delirium, hallucinations and mental impairment. In another study, 22 patients undergoing treatment for alcohol withdrawal were given one gram of taurine three times a day over seven days. They experienced fewer psychiatric symptoms compared to a historical comparison group who hadn’t received taurine. It’s interesting to note that Taurine concentrations have been shown to be decreased in people with schizophrenia and that higher levels of taurine in the frontal cortex – an area of the brain associated with cognition – of people with schizophrenia, were found to be associated with better cognitive functioning, specifically faster information processing.
So, how might Taurine help? Well, Taurine has been shown to protect the brain from inflammation, toxins and protein deficiencies. It also has an inhibitory influence on the activity of the nervous system. Psychosis has been linked to overactivity of the brain and associated higher dopamine levels. The systematic review also showed that certain antioxidant supplements, such as N-Acetyl cysteine and vitamin C, may also be effective — particularly for patients with high levels of ‘oxidative stress’. Studies on omega-3 supplements showed that although these appear to improve brain health in young people with psychosis, the evidence for actually reducing psychotic symptoms is conflicting.
The take-home message for me is that a considerable number of teenagers and 20-something year old’s experience a first-episode psychosis during this critical stage in life that can change the course of their life for many years to come. Unfortunately, not all patients have a complete response to medication, and in these cases, the evidence suggests that in addition to antipsychotic drugs the complementary administration of L-Taurine and possibly Vitamin C and N-acetylcysteine should be considered to help improve outcomes for these patients and improve quality of life. Not all doctors have seen this research and thus, it may be useful to provide them with the research references cited below should you know of a situation where an individual may benefit from this information.
1. Joseph Firth, Simon Rosenbaum, Philip B. Ward, Jackie Curtis, Scott B. Teasdale, Alison R. Yung, Jerome Sarris. Adjunctive nutrients in first-episode psychosis: A systematic review of efficacy, tolerability and neurobiological mechanisms. Early Intervention in Psychiatry, 2018; DOI: 10.1111/eip.12544
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