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Eur J Clin Nutr. 2018 Jun;72(6):832-840. doi: 10.1038/s41430-018-0174-2. Epub 2018 May 30.

Effect of supplementation with flaxseed oil and different doses of fish oil for 2 weeks on plasma phosphatidylcholine fatty acids in young women.

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Department of Human Nutrition, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.
Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism (OCDEM), University of Oxford, Churchill Hospital, Oxford, OX3 7LE, UK.
Department of Human Nutrition, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.
Institute of Applied Health Research, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK.



Although assumed, it remains unclear that fatty acid (FA) biomarkers of n-3 long-chain PUFA reflect wide ranges of intake. However, to be utilised as biomarkers, to predict dietary intake, dose-response curves that cover a spectrum of intakes are required. The aim of the study was to investigate whether the FA composition of plasma phosphatidylcholine (PC) is a sensitive biomarker of n-3 FAs from fish oil, across a range of supplementation doses, and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) supplementation, in young, healthy women.


A total of 303 young women were randomised to intakes ranging between 0.33 and 4.50 g EPA+DHA/day from fish oil (not all doses used in each year) or flaxseed oil (5.90-6.60 g/d) daily for 14 days in a series of trials, over 5 years. Fasting blood was collected at baseline (day 0) and day 14 and plasma PC FA composition, total and HDL-cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations measured.


Fourteen days supplementation with fish oil significantly (P < 0.01) increased, in a dose-dependent fashion, plasma PC EPA, DPA and DHA at all doses except 1 and 3 mL/day. For the combined group of women who consumed any fish oil there was a 16% (P < 0.01) decrease in plasma triacylglycerol concentrations after 14 days supplementation. Flaxseed oil supplementation for 14 day resulted in significant (P < 0.01) increases in ALA, EPA and DPA, whilst DHA remained unchanged.


Our data demonstrate plasma PC is a sensitive biomarker of n-3 FA intake and reflects changes within 14 days across a range of intakes.

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