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J Nutr. 2012 Sep;142(9):1638-44. doi: 10.3945/jn.112.161802. Epub 2012 Jul 18.

Margarines fortified with α-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, or docosahexaenoic acid alter the fatty acid composition of erythrocytes but do not affect the antioxidant status of healthy adults.

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Department of Nutrition and Food Science, Nutritional Physiology, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany.


We aimed to investigate the effects of increased intake of α-linolenic acid (ALA), EPA, or DHA incorporated into a food matrix on the fatty acid composition of erythrocytes and on biomarkers of oxidant/antioxidant status. To this end, a controlled dietary study was conducted in 74 healthy men and women. The participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 interventions in which margarines fortified with either 10 weight percent ALA, EPA, or DHA ethyl esters replaced their normal spread for 6 wk. The total intakes of ALA, EPA, and DHA were 4.4, 2.2, and 2.3 g/d, respectively. Consuming EPA increased the erythrocyte proportion of EPA (394%) and the omega-3 index (sum of EPA and DHA, 38%). Consumption of DHA increased erythrocyte DHA (91%), the omega-3 index (98%), and EPA (137%). The omega-3 index increased to a significantly greater extent in the DHA group than in the EPA group. ALA did not increase erythrocyte EPA or the omega-3 index. We found no change in plasma uric acid or antioxidant capacity in any of the groups. Plasma malondialdehyde (MDA) increased with the EPA and DHA interventions. All 3 interventions decreased erythrocyte linoleic acid hydroperoxides but did not affect their MDA concentrations. In conclusion, the intake of both isolated EPA and DHA incorporated into margarine resulted in an enhanced incorporation of EPA and DHA into erythrocytes. Our findings indicate that DHA is quantitatively superior to EPA in view of the EPA+DHA tissue incorporation and also that 4 g/d ALA is not sufficient to increase the omega-3 index over a 6-wk period.

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