Depletion of omega-3 fatty acid levels in red blood cell membranes of depressive patients

Biol Psychiatry. 1998 Mar 1;43(5):315-9. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3223(97)00206-0.


Background: It has been hypothesized that depletion of cell membrane n3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), particularly docosahexanoic acid (DHA), may be of etiological importance in depression.

Methods: We measured the fatty acid composition of phospholipid in cell membranes from red blood cells (RBC) of 15 depressive patients and 15 healthy control subjects.

Results: Depressive patients showed significant depletions of total n3 PUFA and particularly DHA. Incubation of RBC from control subjects with hydrogen peroxide abolished all significant differences between patients and controls.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that RBC membranes in depressive patients show evidence of oxidative damage. Possible interpretations, and implications for the etiology and treatment of depression, are discussed.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Depressive Disorder / blood*
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phospholipids / blood


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Phospholipids
  • Hydrogen Peroxide