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J Nutr Biochem. 2018 May;55:68-75. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2017.11.007. Epub 2017 Dec 10.

Relative levels of dietary EPA and DHA impact gastric oxidation and essential fatty acid uptake.

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Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (IIM-CSIC), E-36208 Vigo, Spain; Department of Analytical Chemistry, Nutrition and Bromatology and Research Institute for Food Analysis (I.I.A.A.), University of Santiago de Compostela, E-15782, Spain. Electronic address:
Department of Nutritional Sciences and Rutgers Center for Lipid Research, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.
Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (IIM-CSIC), E-36208 Vigo, Spain.


Previous research showed that increasing the proportion of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in marine lipid supplements significantly reduces associated health benefits compared with balanced eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA):DHA supplementation Dasilva et al., 2015 [1]. It was therefore hypothesized that the EPA and DHA molecules might have differential resistance to oxidation during gastric digestion and that the oxidation level achieved could be inversely correlated with intestinal absorption and, hence, with the resultant health benefits. Accordingly, we tested this proposed mechanism of action by investigating the degree of oxidation in the stomach, and the levels of bioaccessible lipids, of varying molar proportions of DHA and EPA (2:1, 1:1 and 1:2) using the dynamic gastrointestinal tract model TIM-1. In addition, small intestine enterocyte absorption and metabolism were simulated by Caco-2 cell monolayers that were incubated with these same varying proportions of DHA and EPA, and comparing oxidized and nonoxidized polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). The results show an inverse correlation between lipid oxidation products in the stomach and the levels of bioaccessible lipids. The balanced 1:1 EPA:DHA diet resulted in lower oxidation of PUFAs during stomach digestion relative to the other ratios tested. Finally, cell-based studies showed significantly lower assimilation of oxidized EPA and DHA substrates compared to nonoxidized PUFAs, as well as significant differences between the net uptake of EPA and DHA. Overall, the present work suggests that the correct design of diets and/or supplements containing marine lipids can strongly influence the stability and bioaccessibility of PUFAs during gastrointestinal digestion and subsequent absorption. This could modulate their health benefits related with inflammation, oxidative stress and metabolic disorders.


Bioaccessibility; Bioavailability; Caco-2 cells; Digestion; Lipid peroxidation; TIM; ω-3 PUFA

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