Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids and risk of psychotic outcomes in the ALSPAC birth cohort

Schizophr Res. 2020 Oct:224:108-115. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2020.09.018. Epub 2020 Oct 14.


Background: Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) levels have been implicated in the pathology of psychotic disorders. We investigated the relationship between childhood PUFA levels and later psychotic experiences (PE's) in a large birth cohort.

Methods: Plasma levels of Ω-3 and Ω-6 fatty acids (FA's) were assayed at ages 7 and 16 years. PE's were assessed at ages 12 and 18 years using a semi-structured interview. Primary outcome was any PE's at 18 years; sensitivity analyses examined incident PE's between ages 12 and 18 years, persistent PE's (at 12 and 18) and psychotic disorder at 18 years. Genetic instruments for Ω-3 and Ω-6 were derived and used in a multivariable Mendelian Randomization analysis.

Results: Higher levels of Ω-6 FA's AA, OA and AdA at age 7 years were weakly associated with a reduced risk for PE's at 18 years, however, effect sizes were small and attenuated after adjusting for confounders (strongest evidence for OA; adjusted OR, 0.842; 95% CI, 0.711, 0.998; p, 0.048). Total Ω-6 levels at age 16 years were associated with an increased odds of psychotic disorder at age 18 years. However, there was no association between Ω-6/Ω-3 ratio and psychosis outcomes, nor with genetic instruments of total Ω-3 or Ω-6 levels.

Conclusions: There is no strong evidence that total plasma Ω-3 FA levels or Ω-6/Ω-3 ratios in childhood and mid-adolescence are associated with increased risk for PE's or psychotic disorder, but very marginal evidence that alterations in the Ω-6 pathway at developmental time points might influence risk2.

Keywords: Birth cohort; Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid; Psychosis; Psychotic experiences; Risk factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Humans
  • Psychotic Disorders* / epidemiology


  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated