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Open Access Research article

Visceral obesity in normal-weight patients suffering from chronic schizophrenia

Beata Konarzewska1*, Ewa Stefańska2, Agnieszka Wendołowicz2, Urszula Cwalina3, Anna Golonko2, Aleksandra Małus1, Urszula Kowzan1, Agata Szulc14, Leszek Rudzki1 and Lucyna Ostrowska2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychiatry, Medical University of Bialystok, Plac Brodowicza 1, Choroszcz 16-070, Poland

2 Department of Dietetics and Clinical Nutrition, Medical University of Bialystok, Mieszka I-go 4B, Białystok 15-054, Poland

3 Department of Statistics and Medical Informatics, Medical University of Bialystok, Szpitalna 37, Białystok 15-295, Poland

4 Department of Psychiatry, Medical University of Warsaw, Faculty of Health Sciences, ul. Partyzantow 2/4, Pruszkow 05-802, Poland

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BMC Psychiatry 2014, 14:35  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-14-35

Published: 8 February 2014



BMI (body mass index) can be misleading regarding the level of adiposity in a normal-weight individual. Recently, a bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) method was developed that can measure body composition variables. The main objectives of this study were to use BIA to compare the body composition variables between chronic non-diabetic schizophrenic patients with normal weight and healthy individuals. The secondary objective was to compare the nutritional pattern of schizophrenia patients with that of matched healthy subjects, and to identify possible relationships between the content of different components of their diet and visceral adiposity.


The subjects were 52 normal-weight patients (33 males and 19 females) diagnosed with schizophrenia based on the DSM-IV and 45 (23 males and 22 females) BMI- matched controls. The patients had been receiving atypical or typical antipsychotic agents for at least one year before enrollment into the study but continuously for 3 months preceding the study and were psychiatrically stable. Body fat (kg), percent (%) body fat, fat-free mass, VAT (visceral adipose tissue) and SAT (subcutaneous adipose tissue) were measured using the bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) method. Daily food rations (DFR) were quantitatively evaluated by a 24-h dietary recall method covering 3 days preceding the examination.


In normal-weight patients schizophrenia was significantly linked with higher VAT, VAT/SAT ratio and lower fat- free mass. Men had over 5 times and women over 2 times as much VAT as BMI matched groups. In women with schizophrenia and in their controls, the amount of magnesium, niacin and vitamin B6 in their diet inversely correlated with VAT, while in men lower zinc and vitamin C intake was related to higher visceral adiposity.


Our study has shown that normal-weight patients with chronic schizophrenia have higher levels of visceral fat (VAT) than controls but similar volume of subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT). Although no clear conclusion can be made regarding cause-and-effect relationships between the dietary content of food served to our patients and visceral obesity, we suggest that schizophrenia diet should be further investigated as a possible factor related to this type of obesity.

Schizophrenia; Normal weight; Body composition; Bioelectrical impedance