PUFA levels reduced in schizophrenia patients

By Mark Cowen, Senior medwireNews Reporter

Results from a systematic review and meta-analysis show that erythrocyte membrane concentrations of certain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are reduced in the brains of people with schizophrenia.

The researchers found that medication-naive and antipsychotic-treated schizophrenia patients had significantly lower erythrocyte membrane concentrations of six PUFAs compared with mentally healthy controls.

Previous research has shown altered PUFA concentrations to be associated with brain tissue loss during normal aging, and the current findings suggest that such alterations may be "involved in the (excessive) brain tissue loss in schizophrenia as well," say W van der Kemp (University Medical Center Utrecht) and colleagues.

In total, 14 published studies, involving 429 schizophrenia patients and 444 controls, met criteria for inclusion in the meta-analysis.

The team found that medication-naive patients and patients taking typical antipsychotics had significantly lower erythrocyte membrane levels of arachidonic acid (AA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and docosapentaenoic acid compared with controls.

Patients taking typical antipsychotics also had significantly reduced levels of linoleic acid, dihomo-γ-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, and docosatetraenoic acid compared with controls.

However, patients taking atypical antipsychotics only had significantly reduced DHA levels compared with controls, the researchers note.

Van der Kemp and team conclude in Schizophrenia Research: "The findings from this meta-analysis suggest decreased PUFA concentrations in red blood cell membranes in schizophrenia."

They add: "Of particular importance in patients are lower concentrations of DHA and AA, two fatty acids that are abundant in the brain and important precursors in the cell-signalling cascade."

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