Schizophrenia is a severe and debilitating mental illness, usually starting in adolescence that affects one per cent of the population. It is known as a psychotic illness, meaning a person with schizophrenia may experience delusions, hallucinations and disordered thoughts. They may have little insight into their illness, commonly not recognising that they are ill but making their own lives and those around them extremely distressing.
Schizophrenia causes great suffering, and though there is as yet no cure, the symptoms can be successfully controlled with drugs though these can have considerable side-effects. Around a third of people with schizophrenia do not respond well to treatment.
There are many contributory causes for someone with this condition – genetic, biochemical, drug induced, social, psychological and environmental – however, in all cases brain function is involved.
The Brain Bio Centre, an independent out-patient treatment clinic owned by the Food for the Brain Foundation, a registered charity, has specialised in identifying certain biochemical imbalances in schizophrenic patients, and correcting these with nutritional interventions with observational success.
This is a system-based approach, acknowledging that our brain biochemistry is highly complex. The greatest chance of restoring normal brain biochemistry is to create an optimal nutritive environment to correct a patient’s unique pattern of biochemical imbalances.
The research project
An exciting prospective observational study is underway to assess the efficacy of a schizophrenia-specific nutritional therapy protocol (plus regular medical care), as compared to standard medical care alone.
Since the core assumption is that there is no one biochemical imbalance that causes schizophrenia, a double blind controlled trial that tests a single intervention is not applicable in this case. Instead, we are measuring the “optimum nutrition” approach of correcting biochemical imbalances to restore mental health, in an intervention group recruited from the Brain Bio Centre; efficacy will be measured against a control group receiving medical care alone, with participants recruited from an NHS hospital specialising in mental health.
Project status so far:
• Food for the Brain has funded an MSc in Personalised Nutrition, resulting in a comprehensive literature review of nutrition approaches to the treatment of schizophrenia
• This literature review is currently being prepared for peer-review, after which it will be submitted for publication
• The observational study design is being finalised and we are completing the IRAS ethics application
• We are actively fundraising to cover the £62,000 costs of conducting this study; if you would like to support the project, please donate here.