MADRID – Untreated people at high risk for developing psychosis also showed an increased prevalence of certain components of metabolic syndrome in data collected from 163 German study participants, a finding that gives new insight into the well-documented but poorly delineated link between schizophrenia and metabolic syndrome.
“The findings point out that a high risk for schizophrenia implies a certain risk for patients to develop metabolic syndrome independent of treatment effects,” said Dr. Joachim Cordes, a psychiatrist at the LVR Clinic of the Heinrich-Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany. He assumed that genetic factors underlie the shared risk some people face for both developing schizophrenia and metabolic syndrome. “I think there is a direct connection between schizophrenia and metabolic syndrome, an inherent factor like a genetic factor,” Dr. Cordes said in an interview. This understanding should influence how patients with newly diagnosed schizophrenia or those at risk for psychosis are managed, he added.
Dr. Cordes’s report was one of several at the meeting sponsored by the European Psychiatric Association that examined different facets of the complex links that tie schizophrenia to metabolic syndrome, an association that already had lots of evidence, including a recent meta-analysis (Schizophr Bull. 2013 March;39:306-18).
He used data collected on 163 people enrolled in the PREVENT study and at high risk for a first psychotic episode. Run at nine German centers, PREVENT primarily tested very early intervention with drug and behavioral therapy to improve outcomes. Dr. Cordes took data collected from these prepsychosis, high-risk patients to assess their prevalence of metabolic syndrome and of the various individual features that define metabolic syndrome, using a definition published by the American Heart Association and the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (Circulation. 2005 Oct 18;112:2735-52). He compared these metabolic syndrome rates with the general German population, using data from 35,869 randomly selected German adults in more than 1,500 German primary care practices, the German Metabolic and Cardiovascular Risk Project (GEMCAS).
The findings showed a 9.2% prevalence of metabolic syndrome in the prepsychosis group and a 7.4% rate among the general adult population, Dr. Cordes reported. Among men in the prepsychosis group, the metabolic syndrome definers with the largest increments in prevalence were low HDL, in 21% of the prepsychosis people and in 12% of the general population, and elevated blood glucose in 11%, compared with 6%. Among women, the metabolic syndrome definers with the greatest between-group differences were elevated waist circumference, in 30% of those with prepsychosis, compared with 17% in the general population, and low HDL in 19%, compared with 14%.
This apparently inherent link between a tendency toward psychosis and schizophrenia and a tendency to develop features of metabolic syndrome suggests that patients with newly diagnosed schizophrenia need a preventive approach to weight management, Dr. Cordes said. He also suggested prescribing antipsychotic medications that pose the lowest risk for causing further metabolic derangements in patients.
A second report at the meeting came from an assessment of cognitive function and its relationship to metabolic syndrome in 54 women diagnosed with schizophrenia and on stable treatment. The schizophrenia patients with metabolic syndrome, nearly half of the total group, performed significantly worse than those without metabolic syndrome in tests of verbal memory, executive function, and attention and processing speed, findings that support an increased incidence of selective cognitive impairment in patients with schizophrenia and metabolic syndrome, said Dr. Adela C. Botis, a psychiatrist and researcher at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
Dr. Botis and her associates studied 54 women diagnosed with schizophrenia who had remitted symptoms for at least 6 months on stable antipsychotic treatment. Using the metabolic syndrome definition of the International Diabetes Federation 25 (46%) had metabolic syndrome, and the other 29 (54%) did not. These numbers document the high prevalence of metabolic syndrome in schizophrenia patients.
A multivariate analysis identified demographic and metabolic factors that significantly linked with decrements in several cognitive domains. Economic status and living situation linked with deficits in verbal memory; elevated systolic blood pressure significantly linked with worsened attention and processing speed; high body mass index linked with loss of motor speed; and less education significantly linked with all these increments as well as four other domains,
A third report used a post-hoc analysis of data from two separate trials to show that treatment with a relatively new antipsychotic drug, lurasidone (Latuda), produced less metabolic syndrome, compared with risperidone or extended-release quetiapine (Seroquel XR), said Dr. Andrei Pikalov, head of global medical affairs at Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, the company that markets Latuda. Lurasidone received approval for treating schizophrenia in 2010.