Maternal serum docosahexaenoic acid and schizophrenia spectrum disorders in adult offspring

Schizophr Res. 2011 May;128(1-3):30-6. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2011.01.009. Epub 2011 Feb 15.


It is believed that during mid-to-late gestation, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an n-3 fatty acid, plays an important role in fetal and infant brain development, including neurocognitive and neuromotor functions. Deficits in several such functions have been associated with schizophrenia. Though sufficient levels of DHA appear to be important in neurodevelopment, elevated maternal DHA levels have also been associated with abnormal reproductive outcomes in both animal models and humans. Our objective was to assess whether a disturbance in maternal DHA levels, measured prospectively during pregnancy, was associated with risk of schizophrenia and other schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD) in adult offspring. In order to test the hypothesis that abnormal levels of DHA are associated with SSD, a case-control study nested within a large, population-based birth cohort, born from 1959 through 1967 and followed up for SSD from 1981 through 1997, was utilized. Maternal levels of both DHA and arachidonic acid (AA), an n-6 fatty acid, were analyzed in archived maternal sera from 57 cases of SSD and 95 matched controls. There was a greater than twofold increased risk of SSD among subjects exposed to maternal serum DHA in the highest tertile (OR=2.38, 95% CI=1.19, 4.76, p=0.01); no such relationship was found between AA and SSD. These findings suggest that elevated maternal DHA is associated with increased risk for the development of SSD in offspring.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Adult Children*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child of Impaired Parents
  • Cohort Studies
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Psychotic Disorders / blood*
  • Risk Factors
  • Schizophrenia / blood*
  • Schizophrenia, Paranoid / blood*
  • Young Adult


  • Docosahexaenoic Acids