Red cell membrane omega-3 fatty acids are decreased in nondepressed patients with social anxiety disorder

Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2006 Feb;16(2):107-13. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2005.07.005. Epub 2005 Oct 21.


The "phospholipid hypothesis" attributes a pathophysiologic role to the polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) composition of phospholipids in depression. The aim of the present study was to determine whether the hypothesis is relevant to social anxiety disorder (SAD). The study sample consisted of 27 untreated, nondepressed patients with SAD (DSM-IV) and 22 controls. Severity of SAD was assessed with the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale (LSAS). Erythrocyte PUFA concentrations were measured by gas-liquid chromatography. Concentrations of most n-3 PUFAs were lower in the patients: 18:3n-3 by 32% (p < 0.002), 20:3n-3 by 34%, 20:5n-3 by 36% (all p < 0.001) and 22:6n-3 by 18% (p = 0.002). No significant differences were observed in other fatty acids. Significant inverse correlations were obtained between levels of n-3 PUFAs and LSAS scores. In conclusion, the phospholipid hypothesis may apply to SAD, thereby opening new therapeutic options. The robust relationship between low erythrocyte n-3 PUFA concentrations and SAD justifies exploration of relevant neuropathophysiological mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids / blood
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / blood*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phobic Disorders / blood*
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Regression Analysis


  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated