Polyunsaturated fatty acid levels in red cell membranes of unmedicated schizophrenic patients

World J Biol Psychiatry. 2004 Apr;5(2):92-9. doi: 10.1080/15622970410029917.


There are several reports of reduced levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), particularly arachidonic acid (AA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), in membrane phospholipid from various tissues including red blood cells (RBC) taken from schizophrenic patients. However, reports have not been entirely consistent and most studies have been confounded by the potential effects of environmental factors including antipsychotic medication and diet. We measured PUFA levels in RBC from two separate groups of unmedicated patients and control subjects from India and Malaysia, populations which have substantial differences in diet. We found no significant difference in levels of AA between patients and control subjects in either population. Levels of adrenic acid were significantly reduced, and levels of DHA significantly increased in both clinical populations. However, diet-related differences in DHA between the populations from India and Malaysia were much greater than differences between schizophrenic patients and controls. It is concluded that reduced RBC membrane levels of AA and DHA are not pathognomic of schizophrenia but that variations in cell membrane fatty acid levels are an epiphenomenon which may reflect underlying abnormalities of phospholipid and fatty acid metabolism and their interaction with environmental factors including medication and diet.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arachidonic Acid / blood
  • Chromatography, Thin Layer
  • Chronic Disease
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / blood*
  • Humans
  • India
  • Malaysia
  • Schizophrenia / blood*
  • Schizophrenia / ethnology


  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Arachidonic Acid