MUSC researchers: Dietary supplement could combat military suicide

(File photo/WCIV)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina are testing whether a common dietary supplement could be used to fight suicides among veterans.

Doctors said Monday that the supplement, omega-3, could reduce the risk of mental illness and suicide among veterans who are determined to be at increased risk for suicidal behaviors.

To test that proposal, more than 300 veterans will be given smoothies daily that contain the supplement.

"This study represents a novel intervention that could reduce the risk for suicide," said Hugh Myrick, a co-principal investigator working on the study. "If the results are positive, the impact on our veterans, our current military personnel and society would be immeasurable."

The study is funded by the Military Operational Medicine Joint Program Committee, according to a news release from MUSC and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Researchers from MUSC will work with other researchers to complete the $10 million study over three years.

"Research conducted in our lab during the last 20 years points to a fundamental role for omega-3 fatty acids in protecting against major depression, substance abuse and other problems," said Joseph Hibbeln of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's Laboratory of Membrane Biochemistry and Biophysics. "Here, we hope to be successful in understanding if omega-3 may play a role in reducing risk of severe suicidal behaviors among U.S. military veterans."