A $10 million, three-year study will soon begin testing to see whether or not a specially formulated omega-3 smoothie can influence military suicide rates. The multi-organizational study, funded by the Military Operational Medicine Joint Program Committee (JPC-5) and managed by the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), will take place at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).
The study will be led by Bernadette Marriott, Ph.D., a professor in the Clinical Neuroscience Division of the Institute of Psychiatry at MUSC, proposed that daily supplementation of omega-3 highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFAs) will reduce the risks of mental illness and suicide among veterans who are determined to be at increased risk for suicidal behaviors. Capt. Joseph R. Hibbeln, M.D., of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s Laboratory of Membrane Biochemistry and Biophysics, and a co-investigator on the MUSC omega-3 trial, is a leading researcher in the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on psychiatric disorders. Based on previous studies, he has long maintained the potential of dietary supplementation with omega-3s to substantially impact mental illness. A pilot sub-study of the trial will look at the impact of omega-3 supplementation and alcohol consumption in suicidal veterans and suicidal veterans with alcohol use disorders.
The Researchers from MUSC, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA, which is part of the National Institutes of Health) were awarded the study contract at a time with there are an unprecedented number of suicides in the military. In July 2012, the Army announced that 38 soldiers were presumed dead by suicide that month alone, marking the highest number of recorded suicides since reporting began.