Study examines correlation between polyunsaturated fatty acids in blood and risk of PTSD

A study published in the current issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics has examined the correlation between polyunsaturated fatty acids in the blood and the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Recent studies reporting the potential effect of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) on neurogenesis suggest that the promotion of neurogenesis could be a promising intervention for preventing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). More specifically, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)  and arachidonic acid (AA)  have been shown to promote hippocampal neurogenesis. In the present study, to examine the hypothesis that omega-3 PUFA supplementation is associated with a reduced risk for PTSD, we conducted a nested case-control analysis of the serum fatty acid composition from 300 antidepressant-naïve, severely injured patients who were participants in the Tachikawa Cohort of Motor Vehicle Accident Study. A total sample of 106 patients completed the study. Means (expressed as percent total fatty acids) for each peak of AA, EPA, and DHA were calculated for both groups. As age and sex were assumed to be associated with dietary habit, we examined the association between age, sex, and serum levels of AA, EPA, and DHA by Student's t test or Pearson's correlation. To estimate the risk for PTSD according to the serum level of PUFAs, we categorized each participant according to tertiles determined from the distribution of fatty acid levels in the control group. We then performed logistic regression analysis to calculate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals. Multivariate models were sequentially adjusted for age, sex, frequency of alcohol drinking, smoking (current smoker or not), and level of education.

At 6 months post-motor vehicle accident, 15 participants met the criteria for current full-blown or partial PTSD [mean age ± SD, 46.7 ± 16.1 years; women, 8 (53.3%)] and 222 had no PTSD [mean age ± SD, 36.3 ± 14.9 years; women, 43 (19.4%)]. There were significant differences in age and sex between the two groups. EPA and DHA levels were significantly higher in women than in men , but there was no significant difference in AA level between the sexes. A significant correlation was found between age and each PUFA level. There was no significant association between AA, EPA, and DHA levels . AA and EPA levels were significantly inversely related to risk for PTSD . When compared with participants with AA and EPA levels in the lowest tertile, risk for PTSD was significantly lower among those with levels in the middle  and highest tertiles. We found that the baseline serum levels of AA and EPA were inversely associated with subsequent risk for developing PTSD after accidental injury. The association was linear, with statistically significant inverse trends across tertiles of AA and EPA levels.

Source: Journal of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics

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