Red Blood Cell Omega-3 Fatty Acid Composition and Psychotropic Drug Use in Older Adults: Results from the MAPT Study

J Nutr Health Aging. 2019;23(9):805-812. doi: 10.1007/s12603-019-1252-4.


Low docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) concentration has been associated with the development of some psychiatric disorders.

Objectives: to assess the association between red blood cell (RBC) DHA-EPA concentration and psychotropic drug use in older adults and between the 1-year change in RBC DHA-EPA and psychotropic drug use at 12 months.

Design: secondary analysis of multicenter, randomized controlled trial testing multidomain intervention and/or n-3 PUFA supplement on cognitive function (MAPT study).

Setting: France, 2008-2014.

Participants: 1680 participants ≥70 years, community-dwelling were included.

Measurements: Psychotropic drug use was self-reported during medical interviews and assessments. RBC n-3 PUFA concentration was defined by % of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) among total fatty acids. Logistic regressions models controlling for age, sex, education, depression risk and intervention group were used.

Results: 1594 participants had baseline DHA-EPA concentration available (mean age=75.5±4.5 years, 65% females). At baseline, participants with DHA-EPA ≤4.82% (lowest quartile) reported higher prevalence of use of overall psychotropic drugs (34.0% vs 24.4%; aOR=1.33, 95%CI=[1.03-1.72]), anxiolytic/hypnotic drugs (25.0% vs 18.2%; aOR=1.42, 95%CI=[1.07-1.89]), and antidepressants (18.3% vs 13.5%; aOR=1.25, 95%CI=[0.93-1.72]) than participants with higher DHA-EPA. Participants who experienced an increase in DHA-EPA from baseline were less likely to use a psychotropic drug at 12 months than participants with no change or a decrease (aOR=0.72, 95%CI=[0.55-0.96]).

Conclusion: Low RBC DHA-EPA concentration was independently associated with psychotropic drug use. Future studies are needed to assess whether low RBC DHA-EPA is a risk marker for psychotropic drug use in older adults and to better understand underlying pathophysiological mechanisms. Registration number: database (NCT00672685).

Keywords: elderly; omega-3 fatty acids; prevention; psychotropic drug use.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Depression
  • Depressive Disorder
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / blood*
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / blood*
  • Erythrocytes / chemistry*
  • Erythrocytes / physiology
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / blood
  • Female
  • France
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychotropic Drugs / pharmacology*


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid

Associated data