In a new study, researchers found a dietary supplement, sarcosine, may help with schizophrenia as part of antipsychotic medication.
The finding suggests the readily available product could easily be incorporated into treatment plans while calling for clinical trials to clarify the benefit and inform guidelines.
The research was conducted by a team from University College London.
Sarcosine naturally occurs in foods such as egg yolks, turkey and legumes, and can be bought as a dietary supplement, sometimes promoted as a ‘brain health supplement’, with various claims being made that are not all backed up by adequate evidence.
According to the team, sarcosine represents a very logical treatment and the small number of clinical trials so far do seem to show that it may be a helpful treatment for schizophrenia.
There is now good evidence from multiple lines of study that some patients with schizophrenia may have defects in the functioning of receptors for glutamate, a common neurotransmitter in the brain, and that sarcosine can help glutamate receptors to work better.
Researchers have been accumulating evidence that if these glutamate receptors did not function properly then people could develop psychosis and other symptoms of schizophrenia.
In the new study, the team found that genetic variants which damage this receptor increase the risk of schizophrenia.
The only risk identified so far seems to be that some people taking sarcosine to treat schizophrenia who are also on antidepressants may experience hypomania (disinhibition and euphoria).
It is important to consult with health professionals before taking sarcosine.
In addition, doctors need to be aware of sarcosine so that they know how to respond if a patient asks them about it, given that it’s increasingly being used as an alternative therapy.
One author of the study is Professor David Curtis.
The study is published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.
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