Concept: Docosahexaenoic acid
Omega-3 fatty acids are dietary essentials, and the current low intakes in most modern developed countries are believed to contribute to a wide variety of physical and mental health problems. Evidence from clinical trials indicates that dietary supplementation with long-chain omega-3 may improve child behavior and learning, although most previous trials have involved children with neurodevelopmental disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or developmental coordination disorder (DCD). Here we investigated whether such benefits might extend to the general child population.
n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, namely docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and can ameliorate many of obesity-associated disorders. We hypothesised that the latter effect will be more pronounced when DHA/EPA is supplemented as phospholipids rather than as triglycerides.
ω-3 fatty acid desaturase is a key enzyme for the biosynthesis of ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids via the oxidative desaturase/elongase pathways. Here we report the identification of three ω-3 desaturases from oomycetes, Pythium aphanidermatum, Phytophthora sojae, and Phytophthora ramorum. These new ω-3 desaturases share 55 % identity at the amino acid level with the known Δ-17 desaturase of Saprolegnia diclina, and about 31 % identity with the bifunctional Δ-12/Δ-15 desaturase of Fusarium monoliforme. The three enzymes were expressed in either wild-type or codon optimized form in an engineered arachidonic acid producing strain of Yarrowia lipolytica to study their activity and substrate specificity. All three were able to convert the ω-6 arachidonic acid to the ω-3 eicosapentanoic acid, with a substrate conversion efficiency of 54-65 %. These enzymes have a broad ω-6 fatty acid substrate spectrum, including both C18 and C20 ω-6 fatty acids although they prefer the C20 substrates, and have strong Δ-17 desaturase activity but weaker Δ-15 desaturase activity. Thus, they belong to the Δ-17 desaturase class. Unlike the previously identified bifunctional Δ-12/Δ-15 desaturase from F. monoliforme, they lack Δ-12 desaturase activity. The newly identified Δ-17 desaturases could use fatty acids in both acyl-CoA and phospholipid fraction as substrates. The identification of these Δ-17 desaturases provides a set of powerful new tools for genetic engineering of microbes and plants to produce ω-3 fatty acids, such as eicosapentanoic acid and docosahexanoic acid, at high levels.
BACKGROUND: Little evidence is available for the validity of dietary fish and polyunsaturated fatty acid intake derived from interviewer-administered questionnaires and plasma docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) concentration. METHODS: We estimated the correlation of DHA and EPA intake from both questionnaires and biochemical measurements. Ethnic Chinese adults with a mean (+/- SD) age of 59.8 (+/-12.8) years (n = 297) (47% women) who completed a 38-item semi-quantitative food-frequency questionnaire and provided a plasma sample were enrolled. Plasma fatty acids were analyzed by capillary gas chromatography. RESULTS: The Spearmen rank correlation coefficients between the intake of various types of fish and marine n-3 fatty acids as well as plasma DHA were significant, ranging from 0.20 to 0.33 (P < 0.001). In addition, dietary EPA, C22:5 n-3 and DHA were significantly correlated with the levels of marine n-3 fatty acids and DHA, with the Spearman rank correlation coefficients ranging from 0.26 to 0.35 (P < 0.001). Moreover, compared with those in the lowest fish intake quintile, participants in the highest quintile had a significantly higher DHA level (adjusted mean difference, 0.99 +/- 0.10%, test for trend, P < 0.001). Similar patterns between dietary DHA intake and plasma DHA levels were found. However, the association between dietary fish intake and plasma EPA was not significant (test for trend, P = 0.69). CONCLUSIONS: The dietary intakes of fish and of long chain n-3 fatty acids, as determined by the food frequency questionnaire, were correlated with the percentages of these fatty acids in plasma, and in particular with plasma DHA. Plasma DHA levels were correlated to dietary intake of long-chain n-3 fatty acids.
To date, most studies on the anti-inflammatory effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in humans have used a mixture of the 2 fatty acids in various forms and proportions.
As the global population and its demand for seafood increases more of our fish will come from aquaculture. Farmed Atlantic salmon are a global commodity and, as an oily fish, contain a rich source of the health promoting long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids. Replacing the traditional finite marine ingredients, fishmeal and fish oil, in farmed salmon diets with sustainable alternatives of terrestrial origin, devoid of EPA and DHA, presents a significant challenge for the aquaculture industry. By comparing the fatty acid composition of over 3,000 Scottish Atlantic salmon farmed between 2006 and 2015, we find that terrestrial fatty acids have significantly increased alongside a decrease in EPA and DHA levels. Consequently, the nutritional value of the final product is compromised requiring double portion sizes, as compared to 2006, in order to satisfy recommended EPA + DHA intake levels endorsed by health advisory organisations. Nevertheless, farmed Scottish salmon still delivers more EPA + DHA than most other fish species and all terrestrial livestock. Our findings highlight the global shortfall of EPA and DHA and the implications this has for the human consumer and examines the potential of microalgae and genetically modified crops as future sources of these important fatty acids.
Treatment with triglyceride emulsions of docosahexaenoic acid (tri-DHA) protected neonatal mice against hypoxia-ischemia (HI) brain injury. The mechanism of this neuroprotection remains unclear. We hypothesized that administration of tri-DHA enriches HI-brains with DHA/DHA metabolites. This reduces Ca2+-induced mitochondrial membrane permeabilization and attenuates brain injury.
The incidence of age-related eye diseases is expected to rise with the aging of the population. Oxidation and inflammation are implicated in the etiology of these diseases. There is evidence that dietary antioxidants and anti-inflammatories may provide benefit in decreasing the risk of age-related eye disease. Nutrients of interest are vitamins C and E, β-carotene, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, and the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. While a recent survey finds that among the baby boomers (45-65 years old), vision is the most important of the five senses, well over half of those surveyed were not aware of the important nutrients that play a key role in eye health. This is evident from a national survey that finds that intake of these key nutrients from dietary sources is below the recommendations or guidelines. Therefore, it is important to educate this population and to create an awareness of the nutrients and foods of particular interest in the prevention of age-related eye disease.
Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) are essential for brain structure, development, and function, and adequate dietary quantities of LC-PUFAs are thought to have been necessary for both brain expansion and the increase in brain complexity observed during modern human evolution. Previous studies conducted in largely European populations suggest that humans have limited capacity to synthesize brain LC-PUFAs such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from plant-based medium chain (MC) PUFAs due to limited desaturase activity. Population-based differences in LC-PUFA levels and their product-to-substrate ratios can, in part, be explained by polymorphisms in the fatty acid desaturase (FADS) gene cluster, which have been associated with increased conversion of MC-PUFAs to LC-PUFAs. Here, we show evidence that these high efficiency converter alleles in the FADS gene cluster were likely driven to near fixation in African populations by positive selection ∼85 kya. We hypothesize that selection at FADS variants, which increase LC-PUFA synthesis from plant-based MC-PUFAs, played an important role in allowing African populations obligatorily tethered to marine sources for LC-PUFAs in isolated geographic regions, to rapidly expand throughout the African continent 60-80 kya.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is the predominant omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) found in the brain and can affect neurological function by modulating signal transduction pathways, neurotransmission, neurogenesis, myelination, membrane receptor function, synaptic plasticity, neuroinflammation, membrane integrity and membrane organization. DHA is rapidly accumulated in the brain during gestation and early infancy, and the availability of DHA via transfer from maternal stores impacts the degree of DHA incorporation into neural tissues. The consumption of DHA leads to many positive physiological and behavioral effects, including those on cognition. Advanced cognitive function is uniquely human, and the optimal development and aging of cognitive abilities has profound impacts on quality of life, productivity, and advancement of society in general. However, the modern diet typically lacks appreciable amounts of DHA. Therefore, in modern populations, maintaining optimal levels of DHA in the brain throughout the lifespan likely requires obtaining preformed DHA via dietary or supplemental sources. In this review, we examine the role of DHA in optimal cognition during development, adulthood, and aging with a focus on human evidence and putative mechanisms of action.