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Schizophrenia and cardiometabolic abnormalities: A Mendelian randomization study

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Saadullah Khani, Noushin 
Cotic, Marius 
Wang, Baihan 
Abidoph, Rosemary 
Mills, Georgina 


Background: Individuals with a diagnosis of schizophrenia are known to be at high risk of premature mortality due to poor physical health, especially cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. The reasons for these physical health outcomes within this patient population are complex. Despite well-documented cardiometabolic adverse effects of certain antipsychotic drugs and lifestyle factors, schizophrenia may have an independent effect. Aims: To investigate if there is evidence that schizophrenia is causally related to cardiometabolic traits (blood lipids, anthropometric traits, glycaemic traits, blood pressure) and vice versa using bi-directional two-sample Mendelian randomization (MR) analysis. Methods: We used 185 genetic variants associated with schizophrenia from the latest Psychiatric Genomics Consortium GWAS (n = 130,644) in the forward analysis (schizophrenia to cardiometabolic traits) and genetic variants associated with the cardiometabolic traits from various consortia in the reverse analysis (cardiometabolic traits to schizophrenia), both at genome-wide significance (5 × 10−8). The primary method was inverse-variance weighted MR, supported by supplementary methods such as MR-Egger, as well as median and mode-based methods. Results: In the forward analysis, schizophrenia was associated with slightly higher low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels (0.013 SD change in LDL per log odds increase in schizophrenia risk, 95% CI, 0.001–0.024 SD; p = 0.027) and total cholesterol levels (0.013 SD change in total cholesterol per log odds increase in schizophrenia risk, 95% CI, 0.002–0.025 SD; p = 0.023). However, these associations did not survive multiple testing corrections. There was no evidence of a causal effect of cardiometabolic traits on schizophrenia in the reverse analysis. Discussion: Dyslipidemia and obesity in schizophrenia patients are unlikely to be driven primarily by schizophrenia itself. Therefore, lifestyle, diet, antipsychotic drugs side effects, as well as shared mechanisms for metabolic dysfunction and schizophrenia such as low-grade systemic inflammation could be possible reasons for the apparent increased risk of metabolic disease in people with schizophrenia. Further research is needed to examine the shared immune mechanism hypothesis.


Peer reviewed: True


Genetics, schizophrenia, Mendelian randomization, single-nucleotide polymorphism, cardiometabolic traits, metabolic syndrome

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Frontiers Media S.A.