Essential fatty acids are critically important components of neuronal membranes. In addition to maintaining optimal cell membrane fluidity, the essential fatty acids affect the functioning of neurotransmitter proteins and neurotransmitter reuptake pumps. Additionally, the essential fatty acids are substrates for a variety of signaling molecules that affect cell-cell communication.
Abnormal fatty acid levels are reliably detected among patients with schizophrenia. It’s clear that at least a subset of patients will have a fatty acid abnormality. The extent to which these abnormalities might define a biochemically-distinct subtype of schizophrenia, and the extent to which fatty acid levels might predict therapeutic response to particular treatments, remain to be determined.
On the other hand, several clinical studies suggest that patients with first-episode schizophrenia may benefit from pharmacological doses of omega-3 fatty acids. The benefit from omega-3 fatty acids to patients with longer-term illness is less clear.
Here are the PowerPoint slides from a talk presented to the First Episode Schizophrenia Treatment Group on 25 April 2017. Topics of this slide deck include:
- review of fatty acid chemistry and naming conventions
- role of fatty acids in the function of nerve cells
- evidence that at least some forms of schizophrenia are associated with essential fatty acid deficits; and
- review of studies of fatty acid supplementation in patients with first-episode schizophrenia