Garland MR, Hallahan B, McNamara M, Carney PA, Grimes H, Hibbeln JR, Harkin A, Controy RM. (2007) The British Journal of Psychiatry 190 112-17
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BACKGROUND: Low cholesterol has been reliably demonstrated in people who self-harm.
AIMS: To determine whether people who self-harm also have low levels of essential fatty acids (EFAs) and to examine associations between the EFAs and serotonergic function.
METHOD: Depression, impulsivity and suicidal intent were measured in patients with self-harm (n=40) and matched controls, together with plasma lipids and EFAs. Platelet serotonergic studies were carried out in a subgroup (n=27).
RESULTS: Patients with self-harm had significantly more pathology on all psychometric measures, lower mean total cholesterol levels (4.18 (s.d.=0.93) v. 4.87 (s.d.=0.83) mmol/l, P=0.003) and lower mean total EFA levels (89. 5 (15.6) v.103.7 (17.1) mug/ml, P=0.0001) than controls after adjustment for confounding variables.
Total n-3 and n-6 EFA levels were also significantly lower. Impulsivity and depression scores were significantly inversely correlated with both n-6 EFAs and n-3 EFAs, but were not associated with total or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Platelet serotonergic measures did not differ between groups, and were not related to psychobiological measures.
CONCLUSIONS: Lower plasma EFA levels combined with low cholesterol concentrations were associated with self-harm as well as impulsivity and affect. This was not related to platelet serotonergic measures.