Food and Behaviour Research

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Low essential fatty acid and B-vitamin status in a subgroup of patients with schizophrenia and its response to dietary supplementation

Kemperman RF, Veurink M, van der Wal T, Knegtering H, Bruggeman R, Fokkema MR, Kema IP, Korf J, Muskiet FA. (2006) Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids.  74(2) 75-85. Epub 2005 Dec 27. 

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We assessed essential fatty acid (EFA) and B-vitamin status, together with their determinants, in 61 patients with schizophrenia and established whether those with poor status responded biochemically to the appropriate dietary supplements. As a group, the patients had high erythrocyte saturated fatty acids (FAs), monounsaturated FA and low polyunsaturated FA of the omega3 and omega6 series. Patients reporting not to take vitamin supplements had low vitamin B12 and high homocysteine. Homocysteine variance proved best explained by folate in both the total group and male patients, and by vitamins B12 and B6 in females. Alcohol consumption and duration of illness are risk factors for low polyunsaturated FA status (< P2.5 of reference range), while male gender and absence of fish consumption predict hyperhomocysteinemia (> P97.5 of reference range). Two patients exhibited biochemical EFA deficiency and seven showed biochemical signs of omega3/docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) marginality. Four patients exhibited moderate hyperhomocysteinemia with plasma values ranging from 57.5 to 74.8 micromol/L. None of the five patients with either moderate hyperhomocysteinemia, biochemical EFA deficiency, or both, was predicted by their clinicians to have poor diets. That diet was nevertheless at the basis of these abnormalities became confirmed after supplementing 4 of them with B vitamins and with soybean and fish oils. We conclude that a subgroup of patients with schizophrenia has biochemical EFA deficiency, omega3/DHA marginality, moderate hyperhomocysteinemia, or combinations. Correction seems indicated in view of the possible relation of poor EFA and B-vitamin status with some of their psychiatric symptoms, but notably to reduce their high risk of cardiovascular disease.