The fatty acid composition of red blood cell membranes from 23 drug-treated schizophrenic patients was measured and compared with a healthy control group.

There were substantial depletions of fatty acids from the n6 and n3 series, particularly arachidonic and docosahexanoic acid. Significant negative correlations between depleted n6 fatty acids and plasma levels of thiobarbituric acid reactive substances suggests that depletion is caused by increased breakdown of these fatty acids rather than by impaired incorporation of fatty acids into membranes.

Arachidonic and docosahexanoic acids appear to show a bimodal distribution.

We propose that this may be a metabolic abnormality which is of aetiological importance in schizophrenia.