Send to

Choose Destination
Eur J Lipid Sci Technol. 2012 Feb;114(2):153-160.

Searching for health beneficial n-3 and n-6 fatty acids in plant seeds.

Author information

Institute of Nutrition, Department of Nutritional Physiology, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany.


Various plant seeds have received little attention in fatty acid research. Seeds from 30 species mainly of Boraginaceae and Primulaceae were analysed in order to identify potential new sources of the n-3 PUFA α-linolenic acid (ALA) and stearidonic acid (SDA) and of the n-6 PUFA γ-linolenic acid (GLA). The fatty acid distribution differed enormously between genera of the same family. Echium species (Boraginaceae) contained the highest amount of total n-3 PUFA (47.1%), predominantly ALA (36.6%) and SDA (10.5%) combined with high GLA (10.2%). Further species of Boraginaceae rich in both SDA and GLA were Omphalodes linifolia (8.4, 17.2%, resp.), Cerinthe minor (7.5, 9.9%, resp.) and Buglossoides purpureocaerulea (6.1, 16.6%, resp.). Alkanna species belonging to Boraginaceae had comparable amounts of ALA (37.3%) and GLA (11.4%) like Echium but lower SDA contents (3.7%). Different genera of Primulaceae (Dodecatheon and Primula) had varying ALA (14.8, 28.8%, resp.) and GLA portions (4.1, 1.5%, resp.), but similar amounts of SDA (4.9, 4.5%, resp.). Cannabis sativa cultivars (Cannabaceae) were rich in linoleic acid (57.1%), but poor in SDA and GLA (0.8, 2.7%, resp.). In conclusion, several of the presented plant seeds contain considerable amounts of n-3 PUFA and GLA, which could be relevant for nutritional purposes due to their biological function as precursors for eicosanoid synthesis. PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS: N-3 PUFA are important for human health and nutrition. Unfortunately, due to the increasing world population, overfishing of the seas and generally low amounts of n-3 PUFA in major oil crops, there is a demand for new sources of n-3 PUFA. One approach involves searching for potential vegetable sources of n-3 PUFA; especially those rich in ALA and SDA. The conversion of ALA to SDA in humans is dependent on the rate-limiting Δ6-desaturation. Plant-derived SDA is therefore a promising precursor regarding the endogenous synthesis of n-3 long-chain PUFA in humans. The present study shows that, in addition to seed oil of Echium, other species of Boraginaceae (Cerinthe, Omphalodes, Lithospermum, Buglossoides) and Primulaceae (Dodecatheon, Primula), generally high in n-3 PUFA (30-50%), contain considerable amounts of SDA (5-10%). Therefore, these seed oils could be important for nutrition.

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center