Plasma fatty acids as diagnostic markers in autistic patients from Saudi Arabia

Lipids Health Dis. 2011 Apr 21;10:62. doi: 10.1186/1476-511X-10-62.


Backgrounds: Autism is a family of developmental disorders of unknown origin. The disorder is characterized by behavioral, developmental, neuropathological and sensory abnormalities, and is usually diagnosed between the ages of 2 and 10 with peak prevalence rates observed in children aged 5-8 years. Recently, there has been heightened interest in the role of plasma free fatty acids (FA) in the pathology of neurological disorders. The aim of this study is to compare plasma fatty acid profiles of Saudi autistic patients with those of age-matching control subjects in an attempt to clarify the role of FA in the etiology of autism.

Methods: 26 autistic patients together with 26-age-matching controls were enrolled in the present study. Methyl esters of FA were extracted with hexane, and the fatty acid composition of the extract was analyzed on a gas chromatography.

Results: The obtained data proved that fatty acids are altered in the plasma of autistic patients, specifically showing an increase in most of the saturated fatty acids except for propionic acid, and a decrease in most of polyunsaturated fatty acids. The altered fatty acid profile was discussed in relation to oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction and the high lead (Pb) concentration previously reported in Saudi autistic patients. Statistical analysis of the obtained data shows that most of the measured fatty acids were significantly different in autistic patients compared to age -matching controls.

Conclusions: Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) curve analysis shows satisfactory values of area under the curve (AUC) which could reflect the high degree of specificity and sensitivity of the altered fatty acids as biomarkers in autistic patients from Saudi Arabia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / blood*
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Fatty Acids / blood*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / blood
  • Humans
  • ROC Curve
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Biomarkers
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated