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J Comp Physiol B. 2011 Feb;181(2):289-98. doi: 10.1007/s00360-010-0520-8. Epub 2010 Oct 28.

Feeding into old age: long-term effects of dietary fatty acid supplementation on tissue composition and life span in mice.

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Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Savoyenstrasse 1, 1160, Vienna, Austria.


Smaller mammals, such as mice, possess tissues containing more polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) than larger mammals, while at the same time live shorter lives. These relationships have been combined in the 'membrane pacemaker hypothesis of aging'. It suggests that membrane PUFA content might determine an animal's life span. PUFAs in general and certain long-chain PUFAs in particular, are highly prone to lipid peroxidation which brings about a high rate of reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. We hypothesized that dietary supplementation of either n-3 or n-6 PUFAs might affect (1) membrane phospholipid composition of heart and liver tissues and (2) life span of the animals due to the altered membrane composition, and subsequent effects on lipid peroxidation. Therefore, we kept female laboratory mice from the C57BL/6 strain on three diets (n-3 PUFA rich, n-6 PUFA rich, control) and assessed body weights, life span, heart, and liver phospholipid composition after the animals had died. We found that while membrane phospholipid composition clearly differed between feeding groups, life span was not directly affected. However, we were able to observe a positive correlation between monounsaturated fatty acids in cardiac muscle and life span.

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