Vitamins, Omega-3 important in psychiatric illness

Folate and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in psychiatric disease.

Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University Medical Center Groningen, 9700 RB Groningen, The Netherlands.

Schizophrenia, autism and depression do not inherit by Mendel’s law, and the search for a genetic basis seems unsuccessful. Schizophrenia and autism relate to low birth weight and pregnancy complications, which are associated with developmental adaptations by “programming”. Epigenetics might constitute the basis of programming and depend on folate status and one-carbon metabolism in general. Early folate status of patients with schizophrenia might be compromised as suggested by (i) coinciding incidences of schizophrenia and neural tube defects (NTDs) in the Dutch hunger winter, (ii) coinciding seasonal fluctuations in birth of patients with schizophrenia and NTDs, (iii) higher schizophrenia incidence in immigrants and (iv) higher incidence in methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase 677C–>T homozygotes. Recent studies in schizophrenia and autism point at epigenetic silencing of critical genes or chromosomal loci. The long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA), arachidonic acid (AA, from meat) and docosahexaenoic acid (fish) are components of brain phospholipids and modulators of signal transduction and gene expression. Patients with schizophrenia and, possibly, autism exhibit abnormal phospholipid metabolism that might cause local AA depletion and impaired eicosanoid-mediated signal transduction. National fish intakes relate inversely with major and postpartum depressions. Five out of six randomized controlled trials with eicosapentaenoic acid (fish) have shown positive effects in schizophrenia, and 4 of 6 were favorable in depression and bipolar disorders. We conclude that folate and LCPUFA might be important in both the etiology and severity of at least some psychiatric diseases.


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