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Research Letter
September 2017

Assessment of Insulin Resistance Among Drug-Naive Patients With First-Episode Schizophrenia in the Context of Hormonal Stress Axis Activation

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Magdeburg, Magdeburg, Germany
  • 2Center for Behavioral Brain Sciences, Magdeburg, Germany
  • 3Laboratory of Psychiatric Neuroscience, Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM), Townsville, Australia
  • 4College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Science, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia
  • 5Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, Parkville, Australia
  • 6Laboratory of Neuroproteomics, Institute of Biology, University of Campinas, Cidade Universitária Zeferino Vaz, Campinas, Brazil
  • 7Institute of Clinical Chemistry and Pathobiochemistry, University of Magdeburg, Magdeburg, Germany
  • 8Department of Forensic Psychiatry, Psychiatric Hospital of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University München, Munich, Germany
JAMA Psychiatry. 2017;74(9):968-970. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.1983

Before the introduction of antipsychotics, links between schizophrenia and abnormal glucose metabolism levels were found in the late 1800s as an increased prevalence of diabetes in families with a history of “insanity.”1 Furthermore, it is known that some patients with psychosis require higher dosages than other patients when applying insulin therapy, suggestive of insulin resistance.2 A recent meta-analysis by Pillinger et al1 assessed insulin resistance and found an elevated homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) among drug-naive patients with first-episode schizophrenia (n = 560) compared with controls (n = 450).1 They highlighted hormonal stress axis activation and lifestyle factors as potential confounders.1 Stress hormones, such as cortisol and catecholamines, are catabolic and functional antagonists of insulin. Antipsychotic-naive individuals with first-episode psychosis exhibit higher baseline cortisol levels and a blunted cortisol awakening response compared with controls.1,3 To test whether insulin resistance in schizophrenia can be discerned from stress-related and medication effects, we assessed HOMA-IR and stress hormone levels among drug-naive patients with first-episode schizophrenia and matched controls.