There is mounting evidence that low levels of some polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) play a role in the pathophysiology of aggressive disorders. PUFA status is influenced by nutritional factors and because of our observation that some substance abusers have poor dietary habits, we explored the possibility that the fatty acids (FA) profiles of cocaine addicts with and without aggressive tendencies would differ. We also explored the possibility that their FA levels would change after a 2 week stay on an inpatient unit where a standard diet would be provided.
Plasma levels of FAs were measured in 24 cocaine addicts admitted to an inpatient substance abuse unit. Six patients had a past history of aggression and 18 did not.
A comparison of the FA levels of aggressive and non-aggressive patients performed 3.7+/-2.0 days after their admission did not reveal any significant difference in saturated FAs (SFAs) or monounsaturated FAs (MFAs). Aggressive patients had significantly lower levels of the n-6 PUFA docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), of total n-3 PUFAs and of the n-3 PUFA docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and a marginally significant increase in the ratio of n-6 to n-3 PUFAs. Measurements performed 18.4+/-1.3 days after admission showed that most FAs had increased in the two patient groups. Some PUFAs, especially those of the n-3 series, increased more sharply in the aggressive patients. As a result, PUFA differences between groups that were present shortly after admission became non-significant.
These data suggest that patients' diets prior to their hospitalization were less than optimal and that the diet of the aggressive individuals might have been particularly deficient in n-3 rich nutrients. These data also give additional support to evidence indicating a possible link between an n-3 deficiency and aggression in humans.