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Br J Nutr. 2013 Feb 28;109(4):701-8. doi: 10.1017/S0007114512001997. Epub 2012 May 23.

Three-way assessment of long-chain n-3 PUFA nutrition: by questionnaire and matched blood and skin samples.

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Dermatological Sciences, Inflammation Sciences Research Group, Photobiology Unit, School of Translational Medicine, Manchester Academic Health Sciences Centre, Salford Royal Foundation Hospital, University of Manchester, Manchester M6 8HD, UK.
School of Pharmacy and Centre for Skin Sciences, School of Life Sciences, University of Bradford, Bradford, UK.
Cancer and Population Studies Group, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane, Australia.


The long-chain n-3 PUFA, EPA, is believed to be important for skin health, including roles in the modulation of inflammation and protection from photodamage. FFQ and blood levels are used as non-invasive proxies for assessing skin PUFA levels, but studies examining how well these proxies reflect target organ content are lacking. In seventy-eight healthy women (mean age 42·8, range 21-60 years) residing in Greater Manchester, we performed a quantitative analysis of long-chain n-3 PUFA nutrition estimated from a self-reported FFQ (n 75) and correlated this with n-3 PUFA concentrations in erythrocytes (n 72) and dermis (n 39). Linear associations between the three n-3 PUFA measurements were assessed by Spearman correlation coefficients and agreement between these measurements was estimated. Average total dietary content of the principal long-chain n-3 PUFA EPA and DHA was 171 (SD 168) and 236 (SD 248) mg/d, respectively. EPA showed significant correlations between FFQ assessments and both erythrocyte (r 0·57, P< 0·0001) and dermal (r 0·33, P= 0·05) levels, as well as between erythrocytes and dermis (r 0·45, P= 0·008). FFQ intake of DHA and the sum of n-3 PUFA also correlated well with erythrocyte concentrations (r 0·50, P< 0·0001; r 0·27, P= 0·03). Agreement between ranked thirds of dietary intake, blood and dermis approached 50% for EPA and DHA, though gross misclassification was lower for EPA. Thus, FFQ estimates and circulating levels of the dietary long-chain n-3 PUFA, EPA, may be utilised as well-correlated measures of its dermal bioavailability.

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