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Lipids. 2000 Sep;35(9):975-81.

Comparison of growth and fatty acid metabolism in rats fed diets containing equal levels of gamma-linolenic acid from high gamma-linolenic acid canola oil or borage oil.

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  • 1Department of Surgery and Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachuetts, 02215 USA.


We have utilized transgenic technology to develop a new source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) using the canola plant as a host. The aim of the present study was to compare the growth and fatty acid metabolism in rats fed equal amounts of GLA obtained from the transgenic canola plant relative to GLA from the borage plant. Young male Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 10/group) were randomized and fed a purified AIN93G diet (10% lipid by weight) containing either a mixture of high GLA canola oil (HGCO) and corn oil or a control diet containing borage oil (BO) for 6 wk. GLA accounted for 23%, of the triglyceride fatty acids in both diets. Growth and diet consumption were monitored every 2-3 d throughout the study. At study termination, the fatty acid composition of the liver and plasma phospholipids was analyzed by gas chromatography. The growth and diet consumption of the HGCO group were similar to the BO group. There were no adverse effects of either diet on the general health or appearance of the rats, or on the morphology of the major organs. There was no significant difference between the diet groups for total percentage of n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids present in either the total or individual phospholipid fractions of liver or plasma. The relative percentage of GLA and its main metabolite, arachidonic acid, in each phospholipid fraction of liver or plasma were also similar between groups. The percentage of 18:2n-6 in liver phosphatidylethanolamine and phosphatidylinositol/serine was higher (P < 0.05) and 22:5n-6 was lower in the HGCO group than the BO group. This finding could be attributed to the higher 18:3n-3 content in the HGCO diet than the BO diet. Results from this long-term feeding study of rats show for the first time that a diet containing transgenically modified canola oil was well-tolerated, and had similar biological effects, i.e., growth characteristics and hepatic metabolism of n-6 fatty acids, as a diet containing borage oil.

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