Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), are increasingly being used by psychiatric patients. Most studies have concentrated on efficacy aspects, while little is known about their safety and tolerability in psychiatric populations. This study aimed to assess the effects of EPA treatment on body mass, glucose metabolism, lipid profiles, prolactin secretion, bleeding time, haematology and liver functions.

Eighty-four subjects with schizophrenia were treated with either EPA 2 g/day or placebo in addition to their antipsychotic medication for 12 weeks, in a randomized, controlled trial. Forty-seven entered a 40-week open-label extension phase of EPA 2 g/day. Seventy-four patients were included in the analysis. Six patients discontinued from the EPA group and 14 in the placebo group.

Adverse event reporting was similar for the two groups. While there were no significant between-group differences, in the blinded phase the EPA group showed a significant increase in body mass index (BMI) and bleeding time. In the open-label extension, there was again a modest increase in BMI. Total cholesterol and HDL levels were significantly decreased. EPA 2 g/day is generally well tolerated. Clinicians should be aware of possible increases in bleeding time, as well as changes in weight and lipid metabolism.