Omega-6 (n-6) and omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are essential nutrients for brain development and function. However, whether or not the levels of these fatty acids are altered in individuals with autism remains debatable.

In this study, we compared the fatty acid contents between 121 autistic patients and 110 non-autistic, non-developmentally delayed controls, aged 3-17.

Analysis of the fatty acid composition of red blood cell (RBC) membrane phospholipids showed that the percentage of total PUFA was lower in autistic patients than in controls; levels of n-6 arachidonic acid (AA) and n-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) were particularly decreased (p<0.001).

In addition, plasma levels of the pro-inflammatory AA metabolite prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) were higher in a subset of the autistic participants (n=20) compared to controls.

Our study demonstrates an alteration in the PUFA profile and increased production of a PUFA-derived metabolite in autistic patients, supporting the hypothesis that abnormal lipid metabolism is implicated in autism.

PMID: 25946342

See following website for full manuscript.