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Lipids Health Dis. 2012 Oct 30;11:144. doi: 10.1186/1476-511X-11-144.

Survey of n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in fish and fish products.

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Department of Nutritional Physiology, Institute of Nutrition, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Dornburger Str, 24, Jena, Germany.



The imbalance of the n-3/n-6 ratio in the Western diet is characterised by a low intake of n-3 long-chain (LC) PUFA and a concurrent high intake of n-6 PUFA. Fish, in particular marine fish, is a unique source of n-3 LC PUFA. However, FA composition of consumed fish changed, due to the increasing usage of n-6 PUFA-rich vegetable oils in aquaculture feed and in fish processing (frying) which both lead to a further shift in n-6 PUFA to the detriment of n-3 LC PUFA.The aim of this study was to determine the ratio of n-3/n-6 including the contents of EPA and DHA in fish fillets and fish products from the German market (n=123). Furthermore, the study focussed on the FA content in farmed salmon compared to wild salmon as well as in processed Alaska pollock fillet, e.g., fish fingers.


Total fat and FA content in fish products varied considerably depending on fish species, feed management, and food processing. Mackerel, herring and trout fillets characteristically contained adequate dietary amounts of absolute EPA and DHA, due to their high fat contents. However, despite a lower fat content, tuna, pollock, and Alaska pollock can contribute considerable amounts of EPA and DHA to the human supply.Farmed salmon are an appropriate source of EPA and DHA owing to their higher fat content compared to wild salmon (12.3 vs. 2.1 wt %), however with elevated SFA, n-9 and n-6 FA contents representing the use of vegetable oils and oilseeds in aquaculture feed. The n-3/n-6 ratio was deteriorated (2.9 vs. 12.4) but still acceptable. Compared to pure fish fillets, breaded and pre-fried Alaska pollock fillet contained extraordinarily high fat and n-6 PUFA levels.


Since fish species vary with respect to their n-3 LC PUFA contents, eating a variety of fish is advisable. High n-6 PUFA containing pre-fried fish support the imbalance of n-3/n-6 ratio in the Western diet. Thus, consumption of pure fish fillets is to be favoured. The lower n-3 PUFA portion in farmed fish can be offset by the higher fat content, however, with an unfavourable FA distribution compared to wild fellows.

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