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Concept: Fatty acids


Over the last century, intakes of omega-6 (ω-6) fatty acids in Western diets have dramatically increased, while omega-3 (ω-3) intakes have fallen. Resulting ω-6/ω-3 intake ratios have risen to nutritionally undesirable levels, generally 10 to 15, compared to a possible optimal ratio near 2.3. We report results of the first large-scale, nationwide study of fatty acids in U.S. organic and conventional milk. Averaged over 12 months, organic milk contained 25% less ω-6 fatty acids and 62% more ω-3 fatty acids than conventional milk, yielding a 2.5-fold higher ω-6/ω-3 ratio in conventional compared to organic milk (5.77 vs. 2.28). All individual ω-3 fatty acid concentrations were higher in organic milk-α-linolenic acid (by 60%), eicosapentaenoic acid (32%), and docosapentaenoic acid (19%)-as was the concentration of conjugated linoleic acid (18%). We report mostly moderate regional and seasonal variability in milk fatty acid profiles. Hypothetical diets of adult women were modeled to assess milk fatty-acid-driven differences in overall dietary ω-6/ω-3 ratios. Diets varied according to three choices: high instead of moderate dairy consumption; organic vs. conventional dairy products; and reduced vs. typical consumption of ω-6 fatty acids. The three choices together would decrease the ω-6/ω-3 ratio among adult women by ∼80% of the total decrease needed to reach a target ratio of 2.3, with relative impact “switch to low ω-6 foods” > “switch to organic dairy products” ≈ “increase consumption of conventional dairy products.” Based on recommended servings of dairy products and seafoods, dairy products supply far more α-linolenic acid than seafoods, about one-third as much eicosapentaenoic acid, and slightly more docosapentaenoic acid, but negligible docosahexaenoic acid. We conclude that consumers have viable options to reduce average ω-6/ω-3 intake ratios, thereby reducing or eliminating probable risk factors for a wide range of developmental and chronic health problems.

Concepts: Nutrition, Fatty acid, Fatty acids, Omega-3 fatty acid, Butter, Eicosapentaenoic acid, Omega-6 fatty acid, Linoleic 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.

Concepts: Psychology, Nutrition, Fatty acid, Fatty acids, Omega-3 fatty acid, Mental disorder, Eicosapentaenoic acid, Docosahexaenoic acid


Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) are bioactive components of membrane phospholipids and serve as substrates for signaling molecules. LCPUFA can be obtained directly from animal foods or synthesized endogenously from 18 carbon precursors via the FADS2 coded enzyme. Vegans rely almost exclusively on endogenous synthesis to generate LCPUFA and we hypothesized that an adaptive genetic polymorphism would confer advantage. The rs66698963 polymorphism, a 22-bp insertion-deletion within FADS2, is associated with basal FADS1 expression, and coordinated induction of FADS1 and FADS2 in vitro. Here, we determined rs66698963 genotype frequencies from 234 individuals of a primarily vegetarian Indian population and 311 individuals from the US. A much higher I/I genotype frequency was found in Indians (68%) than in the US (18%). Analysis using 1000 Genomes Project data confirmed our observation, revealing a global I/I genotype of 70% in South Asians, 53% in Africans, 29% in East Asians, and 17% in Europeans. Tests based on population divergence, site frequency spectrum, and long-range haplotype consistently point to positive selection encompassing rs66698963 in South Asian, African, and some East Asian populations. Basal plasma phospholipid arachidonic acid (ARA) status was 8% greater in I/I compared with D/D individuals. The biochemical pathway product-precursor difference, ARA minus linoleic acid, was 31% and 13% greater for I/I and I/D compared with D/D, respectively. This study is consistent with previous in vitro data suggesting that the insertion allele enhances n-6 LCPUFA synthesis and may confer an adaptive advantage in South Asians because of the traditional plant-based diet practice.

Concepts: Genetics, Allele, Fatty acid, Fatty acids, Essential fatty acid, Omega-6 fatty acid, Linoleic acid, Arachidonic acid


BACKGROUND: Higher plasma n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) have been associated with a lower risk of age related cognitive decline, and to beneficially affect cardiometabolic risk factors. A relation exists between metabolic disorders such as diabetes type 2 and cognitive decline. Results regarding the potential effects of n-3 PUFA on risk factors in healthy subjects are divergent, and studies regarding the possible relation between cardiometabolic parameters and cognitive performance are scarce. The objective was to evaluate the effects of five weeks intake of long chain n-3 PUFA on cognitive performance in healthy individuals, and to exploit the possible relation between outcomes in cognitive tests to cardiometabolic risk parameters. METHODS: Fish oil n-3 PUFA (3g daily) were consumed during 5weeks separated by a 5 week washout period in a cross-over placebo controlled study, including 40 healthy middle aged to elderly subjects. Cognitive performance was determined by tests measuring working memory (WM) and selective attention. RESULTS: Supplementation with n-3 PUFA resulted in better performance in the WM-test compared with placebo (p < 0.05). In contrast to placebo, n-3 PUFA lowered plasma triacylglycerides (P < 0.05) and systolic blood pressure (p < 0.0001). Systolic blood pressure (p < 0.05), f-glucose (p = 0.05), and s-TNF-alpha (p = 0.05), were inversely related to the performance in cognitive tests. CONCLUSIONS: Intake of n-3 PUFA improved cognitive performance in healthy subjects after five weeks compared with placebo. In addition, inverse relations were obtained between cardiometabolic risk factors and cognitive performance, indicating a potential of dietary prevention strategies to delay onset of metabolic disorders and associated cognitive decline.

Concepts: Nutrition, Fatty acids, Essential fatty acid


OBJECTIVE: To assess whether three novel interventions, formulated based on a systems medicine therapeutic concept, reduced disease activity in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) who were either treated or not with disease-modifying treatment. DESIGN: A 30-month randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel design, phase II proof-of-concept clinical study. SETTINGS: Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics. PARTICIPANTS: 80 participants were randomised into four groups of 20 each. A total of 41 (51%) patients completed the 30-month trial. The eligibility criteria were an age of 18-65; a diagnosis of relapsing-remitting MS according to the McDonald criteria; a score of 0.0-5.5 on the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS); MRI showing lesions consistent with MS; at least one documented clinical relapse and either receiving or not a disease-modifying treatment within the 24-month period before enrolment in the study. Patients were excluded because of a recent (<30 days) relapse, prior immunosuppressant or monoclonal antibody therapy, pregnancy or nursing, other severe disease compromising organ function, progressive MS, history of recent drug or alcohol abuse, use of any additional food supplements, vitamins or any form of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and a history of severe allergic or anaphylactic reactions or known specific nutritional hypersensitivity. INTERVENTIONS: The first intervention (A) was composed of Ω-3 and Ω-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids at 1:1 wt/wt. Specifically, the Ω-3 fatty acids were docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid at 3:1 wt/wt, and the Ω-6 fatty acids were linoleic acid and γ-linolenic acid at 2:1 wt/wt. This intervention also included minor quantities of other specific polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids as well as vitamin A and vitamin E (α-tocopherol). The second intervention (B, PLP10) was a combination of A and γ-tocopherol. The third intervention (C) was γ-tocopherol alone. The fourth group of 20 participants received placebo. The interventions were administered per os (by mouth) once daily, 30 min before dinner for 30 months. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary end point was the annualised relapse rate (ARR) of the three interventions versus the placebo at 2 years. The secondary end point was the time to confirmed disability progression at 2 years. RESULTS: A total of 41 (51%) patients completed the 30-month trial. Overall, for the per-protocol analysis of the 2-year primary end point, eight relapses were recorded in the PLP10 group (n=10; 0.40 ARR) versus 25 relapses in the placebo group (n=12; 1.04 ARR), representing a 64% adjusted relative rate reduction for the PLP10 group (RRR 0.36, 95% CI 0.15 to 0.87, p=0.024). In a subgroup analysis that excluded patients on monoclonal antibody (natalizumab) treatment, the observed adjusted RRR became stronger (72%) over the 2 years (RRR 0.28, 95% CI 0.10 to 0.79, p=0.016). The per-protocol analysis for the secondary outcome at 2 years, the time to disability progression, was significantly longer only for PLP10. The cumulative probability of disability progression at 2 years was 10% in the PLP10 group and 58% in the placebo group (unadjusted log-rank p=0.019). In a subgroup analysis that excluded patients on natalizumab, the cumulative probability of progression was 10% for the 10 patients in the PLP10 group and 70% for the 12 patients in the placebo group, representing a relative 86% decrease in the risk of the sustained progression of disability in the PLP10 group (unadjusted log-rank p=0.006; adjusted HR, 0.11; 95% CI 0.01 to 0.97, p=0.047). No adverse events were reported. Interventions A (10 patients) and C (9 patients) showed no significant efficacy. CONCLUSIONS: In this small proof-of-concept, randomised, double-blind clinical trial; the PLP10 treatment significantly reduced the ARR and the risk of sustained disability progression without any reported serious adverse events. Larger studies are needed to further assess the safety and efficacy of PLP10. TRIAL REGISTRATION: International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial, number ISRCTN87818535.

Concepts: Clinical trial, Nutrition, Fatty acid, Fatty acids, Essential fatty acid, Omega-3 fatty acid, Multiple sclerosis, Linoleic acid


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.

Concepts: Nutrition, Fatty acid, Fatty acids, Essential fatty acid, Omega-3 fatty acid, Eicosapentaenoic acid, Docosahexaenoic acid, Polyunsaturated fatty acid


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.

Concepts: Amino acid, Nutrition, Fatty acid, Enzyme, Fatty acids, Essential fatty acid, Docosahexaenoic acid, Water moulds


BACKGROUND: The objective of this study was to evaluate the mediating role of maternal early pregnancy plasma levels of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) in the association of interpregnancy interval (IPI) with birth weight and smallness for gestational age (SGA) at birth. METHODS: We analysed a subsample of the Amsterdam Born Children and their Development (ABCD) cohort, comprising 1,659 parous pregnant women recruited between January 2003 and March 2004. We used linear and logistic regression to evaluate the associations between fatty acid status, interpregnancy interval and pregnancy outcome. RESULTS: Low plasma phospholipids concentrations of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA), and high concentrations of arachidonic acid (AA) during early pregnancy were associated with reduced birth weight and/or an increased risk of SGA. Short IPIs (< 6 months, with 18--23 months as a reference) were associated with a mean decrease of 207.6 g (SE: +/- 73.1) in birth weight (p = 0.005) and a twofold increased risk of SGA (OR: 2.05; CI: 0.93--4.51; p = 0.074). Adjustment for maternal fatty acid concentrations did not affect these results to any meaningful extent. CONCLUSIONS: Despite the observed association of maternal early pregnancy LCPUFA status with birth weight and SGA, our study provides no evidence for the existence of an important role of maternal EPA, DHA, DGLA or AA in the association of short interpregnancy intervals with birth weight and SGA.

Concepts: Fatty acid, Fatty acids, Essential fatty acid, Eicosapentaenoic acid, Omega-6 fatty acid, Linoleic acid, Arachidonic acid, Polyunsaturated fatty acid


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.

Concepts: Nutrition, Fatty acids, Spearman's rank correlation coefficient, Essential fatty acid, Omega-3 fatty acid, Eicosapentaenoic acid, Docosahexaenoic acid, Butyric acid


Within the secreted phospholipase A2 (sPLA2) family, group X sPLA2 (sPLA2-X) has the highest capacity to hydrolyze cellular membranes and has long been thought to promote inflammation by releasing arachidonic acid (AA), a precursor of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids. Unexpectedly, we found that transgenic mice globally overexpressing human sPLA2-X (PLA2G10-Tg) displayed striking immunosuppressive and lean phenotypes with lymphopenia and increased M2-like macrophages, accompanied by marked elevation of free ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and their metabolites. Studies using Pla2g10-deficient mice revealed that endogenous sPLA2-X, which is highly expressed in the colon epithelium and spermatozoa, mobilized ωPUFAs or their metabolites to protect against dextran sulfate-induced colitis and to promote fertilization, respectively. In colitis, sPLA2-X deficiency increased colorectal expression of Th17 cytokines, and ω3 PUFAs attenuated their production by lamina propria cells partly through the fatty acid receptor GPR120. In comparison, cytosolic phospholipase A2 (cPLA2α) protects from colitis by mobilizing ω-6 AA metabolites including prostaglandin E2. Thus, our results underscore a previously unrecognized role of sPLA2-X as an ω3 PUFA mobilizer in vivo, segregated mobilization of ω-3 and ω-6 PUFA metabolites by sPLA2-X and cPLA2α, respectively, in protection against colitis, and the novel role of a particular sPLA2-X-driven PUFA in fertilization.

Concepts: Nutrition, Fatty acid, Fatty acids, Essential fatty acid, Phospholipase A2, Omega-6 fatty acid, Prostaglandin, Arachidonic acid