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Am J Clin Nutr. 1996 Sep;64(3):297-304.

n-3 fatty acids induce oxidative modifications in human erythrocytes depending on dose and duration of dietary supplementation.

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Institute of General Pathology, Catholic University, Rome, Italy.


The present work was performed to study an optimal dose and duration of dietary n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) supplementation that would not result in harmful modifications of oxidative cell metabolism. Forty healthy subjects were divided into four groups that received 2.5 g/d eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) + docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), 5.1 g EPA + DHA/d, 7.7 g EPA + DHA/d, or placebo. Fatty acid composition, tocopherol status, and susceptibility to lipid peroxidation induced in vitro by 2,2'-azobis-(2-amidinopropane) (AAPH) were evaluated in human red blood cell (RBC) membranes on days 30 and 180. n-3 PUFA treatment increased EPA and DHA concentrations in RBC membranes in a time-dependent manner in all of the n-3 PUFA groups. These modifications occurred with concomitant dose- and time-dependent increases in the membrane unsaturation index. After 30 d of treatment with n-3 PUFAs, alpha-to-copherol significantly increased in RBC membranes of the intermediate- and high-dose groups. Because of the higher concentration of this antioxidant in these groups, the susceptibility of RBC membranes to peroxidation was decreased. However, after 180 d of treatment, alpha-tocopherol decreased to baseline values and AAPH-induced lipid peroxidation increased in a dose-dependent manner. These results show that high doses of dietary n-3 PUFAs, as well as long-time treatments, affect human RBC susceptibility to lipid peroxidation by changes in fatty acid composition and tocopherol content.

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