Essential fatty acid deficiency in erythrocyte membranes from chronic schizophrenic patients, and the clinical effects of dietary supplementation

Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 1996 Aug;55(1-2):71-5. doi: 10.1016/s0952-3278(96)90148-9.


There is now convincing evidence that membrane phospholipid metabolism is abnormal in schizophrenic patients. Our own studies, consistent with those of other research groups, have shown marked depletion of essential fatty acids, particularly arachidonic acid and docosahexanoic acid, in red blood cell membranes from schizophrenic patients relative to healthy control subjects. We also present preliminary evidence that similar abnormalities are present in first degree relatives of schizophrenic patients. Furthermore, it appears that changes in diet, which modify membrane levels of fatty acids, can have significant effects upon symptoms of schizophrenia and tardive dyskinesia (TD). Thus, we have found that schizophrenic patients who eat more (n-3) fatty acids in their normal diet have less severe symptoms. In a pilot study of (n-3) fatty acid supplementation we observed significant improvement in both schizophrenic symptoms and tardive dyskinesia over a 6 week period.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arachidonic Acids / blood
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / blood
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / chemistry*
  • Family
  • Fatty Acids, Essential / blood
  • Fatty Acids, Essential / deficiency*
  • Fatty Acids, Essential / therapeutic use
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage
  • Food, Fortified
  • Humans
  • Linoleic Acid
  • Linoleic Acids / blood
  • Membrane Lipids / chemistry*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Schizophrenia / blood*
  • Schizophrenia / diet therapy
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology


  • Arachidonic Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Essential
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Linoleic Acids
  • Membrane Lipids
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Linoleic Acid