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Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2009 Jan;80(1):27-32. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2008.10.004. Epub 2008 Dec 13.

Docosahexaenoic acid in red blood cells of women of reproductive age is positively associated with oral contraceptive use and physical activity.

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Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Iceland, Vatnsmyrarvegi 16, IS-101 Reykjavík, Iceland.


Optimal intake of the long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and proper balance between intake of n-6 PUFA and n-3 PUFA are important for human health. Considerable evidence exists to show that DHA has a marked benefit during pregnancy. Lifestyle factors can affect the biosynthesis of DHA from dietary precursors, incorporation into membranes and degradation. The purpose of this study was to investigate the PUFA composition of red blood cells (RBCs) from women (n=40) in reproductive age, and how it is affected by diet and other lifestyle factors. Of all the lifestyle factors tested oral contraceptive use and physical activity were the ones correlated with DHA in RBCs, after adjustment for DHA intake. The findings indicate that oral contraceptive use and physical activity have a positive impact on the DHA status, as assessed by RBC level, of women in reproductive age.

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