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Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2000 Sep;70(5):251-9.

Effect of dietary docosahexaenoic acid and phosphatidylcholine on maze behavior and fatty acid composition of plasma and brain lipids in mice.

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National Food Research Institute, Kannondai, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.


We investigated the effects of dietary docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6 n-3) and phosphatidylcholine (PC) on maze behavior and brain fatty acids in mice. Male Crj:CD-1 mice (3 wk old) were fed a diet containing 2% DHA and 3% palm oil (DHA group); 5% PC (PC group); 1% DHA, 2.5% PC and 1.5% palm oil (DHA + PC group); 5% palm oil (Palm oil control group) or MF laboratory chow (MF control group) for 7 mo. After this time maze-learning ability was assessed. The time required to reach the maze exit and the number of times that a mouse strayed into blind alleys in the maze were measured three times every four days. After the last learning test, all mice were sacrificed and plasma and brain were analyzed for fatty acid composition. The DHA and PC groups required less time to reach the maze exit and strayed less into blind alleys than the control group in the third trial. The difference between the DHA or PC groups and control mice was statistically significant (p < 0.05). In the total lipids of plasma and brain of mice fed DHA, there was a significant increase in DHA levels and a concomitant decrease in arachidonic acid (AA, 20:4 n-6). Similar changes in fatty acid composition were observed in brain phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylethanolamine for this group of mice. However, this pattern of changes in brain fatty acids was not evident in the PC group. Our data suggest that maze-learning ability in mice is enhanced by intakes of DHA and PC. However, the mechanisms by which the DHA and PC diets improved learning ability appear to be different. A synergistic effect of DHA and PC on learning ability is not apparent in the DHA + PC group.

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