Food and Behaviour Research

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Physical consequences of schizophrenia and its treatment: The metabolic syndrome

Ryan MCM, Thakore JH. (2002) Life Sciences 71(3) 239-257 

Web URL: View this and related research articles via PubMed here


Schizophrenia is a life shortening illness. Unnatural causes and natural causes are put forward as reasons for this excess mortality.

In terms of the latter, a host of different physical disorders occur with increased frequency in schizophrenia. When taken together, some of these illnesses such as type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disorders constitute the Metabolic Syndrome; a characteristic phenotype of those with this syndrome is excessive visceral fat distribution.

The exact reasons why this particular syndrome occurs in schizophrenia is as yet unclear though factors such as life style, poor diet and lack of exercise may contribute to it's development.

Alternatively, overactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis leading to hypercortisolaemia can also result in excessive visceral fat accumulation.

This minireview aims to explore the potential role of these issues and medication in terms of the increased morbidity and mortality observed in schizophrenia.


Both Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease are more common in people with schizophrenia than in the general population, and they contribute to the excess mortality associated with this condition.

These conditions are themselves typically preceded by 'the metabolic syndrome' - a constellation of symptoms including high blood pressure, high blood fats, and the accumulation of 'abdominal' fat (i.e. fat around the internal organs or 'viscera'), with or without more general obesity.

This mini-review considers possible reasons for the association between schizophrenia and the metabolic syndrome, as well as its implications for clinical management.