Food and Behaviour Research

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Significantly reduced docosahexaenoic and docosapentaenoic acid concentrations in erythrocyte membranes from schizophrenic patients compared with a carefully matched control group.

Assies, J., Lieverse, R., Vreken, P., Wanders, R.J., Dingemans, P.M., Linszen, D.H. (2001) Biol Psychiatry 49(6) 510-22. 

Web URL: Licensed users of Biological Psychiatry online (via Science Direct) can view this paper here


BACKGROUND: Fatty acid research in schizophrenia has demonstrated an altered cell membrane phospholipid metabolism. Erythrocyte membrane phospholipid composition closest reflects that of neuronal membranes.

METHODS: (Poly)(un)saturated fatty acid concentrations were measured in the erythrocyte membranes of 19, consecutively admitted, medicated young schizophrenic patients and then compared with matched control subjects. Psychiatric symptomatology was rated with the Positive and Negative Symptom Scale and Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale. Because diet, hormones, and cannabis influence fatty acid metabolism, we included these factors in our study.

RESULTS: The most distinctive findings concerned the omega-3 series: C22:5 omega-3, C22:6 omega-3 (docosahexaenoic acid), and the sum of omega-3 fatty acids were significantly decreased. Interestingly, C20:4 omega-6 (arachidonic acid) was not lowered. In the omega-9 series, higher levels of C22:1 omega-9 and lower levels its elongation product, C24:1 omega-9 (nervonic acid), were found. Interestingly, the other arm of the desaturation-elongation sequence of C18:1 omega-9, C20:3 omega-9, was lower in patients. The total omega-9 fatty acid levels were also lower in patients.

CONCLUSIONS: Significant differences in erythrocyte fatty acid composition were found. The differences were not due to diet or hormonal status and could not be explained by the medication or cannabis use. No consistent pattern emerged from the different fatty acid abnormalities and the clinical symptom scores.