Levels of red blood cell fatty acids in patients with psychosis, their unaffected siblings, and healthy controls

Suzanne Medema, Roel J.T. Mocking, Maarten W.J. Koeter, Frédéric M. Vaz, Carin Meijer, Lieuwe Haan, Nico J.M. De Van Beveren, René Kahn, Lieuwe De Haan, Jim Van Os, Durk Wiersma, Richard Bruggeman, Wiepke Cahn, Inez Myin-Germeys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Background: Two recent meta- Analyses showed decreased red blood cell (RBC) polyunsaturated fatty acids (FA) in schizophrenia and related disorders. However, both these meta- Analyses report considerable heterogeneity, probably related to differences in patient samples between studies. Here, we investigated whether variations in RBC FA are associated with psychosis, and thus may be an intermediate phenotype of the disorder. Methods: For the present study, a total of 215 patients (87% outpatients), 187 siblings, and 98 controls were investigated for multiple FA analyses. Based on previous studies, we investigated docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), arachidonic acid (AA), linoleic acid (LA), nervonic acid (NA), and eicasopentaenoic acid (EPA). On an exploratory basis, a large number of additional FA were investigated. Multilevel mixed models were used to compare the FA between the 3 groups. Results: Compared to controls, both patients and siblings showed significantly increased DHA, DPA, AA, and NA. LA was significantly higher in siblings compared to controls. EPA was not significantly different between the 3 groups. Also the exploratory FA were increased in patients and siblings. Conclusions: We found increased RBC FA DHA, DPA, AA, and NA in patients and siblings compared to controls. The direction of change is similar in both patients and siblings, which may suggest a shared environment and/or an intermediate phenotype. Differences between patient samples reflecting stage of disorder, dietary patterns, medication use, and drug abuse are possible modifiers of FA, contributing to the heterogeneity in findings concerning FA in schizophrenia patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-368
Number of pages11
JournalSchizophrenia Bulletin
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • AA (arachidonic acid)
  • Endophenotype
  • FA (fatty acid)
  • Familial
  • NA (nervonic acid)
  • Schizophrenia


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