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Different sources of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids affects apparent digestibility, tissue deposition, and tissue oxidative stability in growing female rats

Janet C Tou12*, Stephanie N Altman2, Joseph C Gigliotti1, Vagner A Benedito2 and Elizabeth L Cordonier3

Author Affiliations

1 Human Nutrition and Foods, Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences, West Virginia University, P.O. Box 6108, Morgantown, WV 26506 USA

2 Genetics and Developmental Biology, Division of Plant and Soil Sciences, West Virginia University, P.O. Box 6108, Morgantown, WV 26506 USA

3 Biochemistry, Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences, West Virginia University, P.O. Box 6108, Morgantown, WV 26506 USA

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Lipids in Health and Disease 2011, 10:179  doi:10.1186/1476-511X-10-179

Published: 14 October 2011



Numerous health benefits associated with increased omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (n-3 PUFA) consumption has lead to an increasing variety of available n-3 PUFA sources. However, sources differ in the type, amount, and structural form of the n-3 PUFAs. Therefore, the objective of this study was to determine the effect of different sources of ω-3 PUFAs on digestibility, tissue deposition, eicosanoid metabolism, and oxidative stability.


Female Sprague-Dawley rats (age 28 d) were randomly assigned (n = 10/group) to be fed a high fat 12% (wt) diet consisting of either corn oil (CO) or n-3 PUFA rich flaxseed (FO), krill (KO), menhaden (MO), salmon (SO) or tuna (TO) oil for 8 weeks. Rats were individually housed in metabolic cages to determine fatty acid digestibility. Diet and tissue fatty acid composition was analyzed by gas chromatography and lipid classes using thin layer chromatography. Eicosanoid metabolism was determined by measuring urinary metabolites of 2-series prostaglandins (PGs) and thromoboxanes (TXBs) using enzyme immunoassays. Oxidative stability was assessed by measuring thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) and total antioxidant capacity (TAC) using colorimetric assays. Gene expression of antioxidant defense enzymes was determined by real time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR).


Rats fed KO had significantly lower DHA digestibility and brain DHA incorporation than SO and TO-fed rats. Of the n-3 PUFA sources, rats fed SO and TO had the highest n-3 PUFAs digestibility and in turn, tissue accretion. Higher tissue n-3 LC-PUFAs had no significant effect on 2-series PG and TXB metabolites. Despite higher tissue n-3 LC-PUFA deposition, there was no increase in oxidation susceptibility indicated by no significant increase in TBARS or decrease in TAC and gene expression of antioxidant defense enzymes, in SO or TO-fed rats.


On the basis that the optimal n-3 PUFA sources should provide high digestibility and efficient tissue incorporation with the least tissue lipid peroxidation, TO and SO appeared to be the most beneficial of the n-3 PUFAs sources evaluated in this study.

marine oils; flaxseed oil; krill oil; digestibility; tissue accretion; oxidative stress