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Sports Med. 2004;34(15):1051-76.

Effects of exercise on the fatty-acid composition of blood and tissue lipids.

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Department of Physical Education and Sport Science, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, 541 24 Thessaloniki, Greece.


This article reviews the effects of acute and chronic exercise on the fatty-acid composition of animal and human tissues (plasma, skeletal muscle, heart, adipose tissue, liver, artery and erythrocytes), as reported in 68 studies spanning four decades. The most consistently observed effect has been an increase in the relative amount of unsaturated, especially monounsaturated, non-esterified fatty acids in plasma of both animals and humans after acute exercise. Chronic exercise seems to increase the proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids and omega6 fatty acids, while decreasing the proportion of monounsaturated fatty acids in animal and human adipose tissue. Additionally, chronic exercise seems to decrease the relative amount of unsaturated fatty acids in liver lipids of animals and humans. There is no consensus regarding the effect of exercise on the fatty-acid composition of lipids in any other tissue. In general, the effects of exercise are independent of nutrition and, regarding skeletal muscle, muscle fibre type. The available literature shows that, in addition to modifying the concentrations of animal and human tissue lipids, exercise also changes their fatty-acid profile. Unfortunately, the available studies are so much divided among exercise models, species and biological samples that a cohesive picture of the plasticity of the fatty-acid pattern of most tissues toward exercise has not emerged. Future studies should focus on determining the fatty-acid profile of separate lipid classes (rather than total lipids) in separate subcellular fractions (rather than whole tissues), examining tissues and organs on which no data are available and exploring the mechanisms of the exercise-induced changes in fatty-acid composition.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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