Neurochemical Research

, Volume 35, Issue 9, pp 1376–1383 | Cite as

Zinc and Fatty Acids in Depression

  • Gisela IrmischEmail author
  • Detlef Schlaefke
  • Joerg Richter
Original Paper


Polyunsaturated Fatty acids (PUFAs) seem to be helpful in the therapy of depression. Zinc (Zn) may be one co-factor contributing to their antidepressive effect. Zn acts lipid protective and is a constituent of fatty acid metabolism enzymes. In animals, an antidepressive effect of Zn was already demonstrated. Therefore, if and how Zn and PUFAs correlate in depressive patients or in individuals from the general population was investigated. Blood samples were collected from 88 depressive in-patients and 88 volunteers from the general population matched for age-group and gender (each 32 men and 56 women, 21–70 years) for measurement of Zn (colorimetric) and of 12 fatty acids (FAs) (by capillary gas-chromatography). Severity of depression in patients was assessed by Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS). Zn concentration was independent of age, gender and body-mass-index and significantly correlated with the severity of depression measured by BDI (r = 0.26; P = 0.034) in depressive patients,. HDRS was inversely correlated with gammalinolenic acid concentration (r = −0.24; P = 0.029). Median serum Zn concentration in depressive patients did not differ from control individuals. Zn was correlated with myristic acid concentration (r = 0.22; P < 0.05) in controls from the general population; and a negative correlation between Zn and dihomogammalinolenic acid concentration (r = −0.26; P < 0.05) was found in depressive inpatients. FA composition in serum significantly differed between depressive and healthy persons: Depressive patients had higher stearic and arachidonic acid (AA) concentration. Relative to AA, their eicosapentaenoic and docosapentaenoic acid concentration were diminished compared to the general populations group. These results do not confirm the hypothesis of a general lack of Zn in depressive disorders, but Zn concentrations differed dependent on comorbid disorders and severity of depression. In depressive patients and control persons Zn concentration is associated with different FAs indicating diverging metabolic pathways.


Zinc Fatty acids Depression 



Arachidonic acid 20:4n-6


Alphalinolenic acid 18:3n-3


Beck depression inventory


Dihommogammalinolenic acid (20:3n-6)


Docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3)


Eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3)


Fatty acids


Gammalinolenic acid (18:3n-6)


Hamilton rating scale for depression


Linoleic acid (18:2n-6)


Myristic acid (14:0)


Oleic acid (18:1n-9)


Palmitic acid (16:0)


Palmitoleic acid (16:1n-7)


Prostaglandin E2


Polyunsaturated fatty acid


Stearic acid (18:0)





The research project was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG Er 225/2-1). There exists no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gisela Irmisch
    • 1
    Email author
  • Detlef Schlaefke
    • 2
  • Joerg Richter
    • 3
  1. 1.Psychiatric University Hospital, Universität Rostock, Medizinische Fakultät, Neurochemisches Labor der Klinik für Psychiatrie and PsychotherapieRostockGermany
  2. 2.Universität Rostock, Medizinische Fakultät, Klinik für Forensische PsychiatrieRostockGermany
  3. 3.Norway Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Eastern and Southern NorwayOsloNorway

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