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Mol Cell Biochem. 1997 Dec;177(1-2):257-69.

Diets enriched in menhaden fish oil, seal oil, or shark liver oil have distinct effects on the lipid and fatty-acid composition of guinea pig heart.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.


The purpose of this investigation was to determine whether diets supplemented with oils from three different marine sources, all of which contain high proportions of long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), result in qualitatively distinct lipid and fatty acid profiles in guinea pig heart. Albino guinea pigs (14 days old) were fed standard, nonpurified guinea pig diets (NP) or NP supplemented with menhaden fish oil (MO), harp seal oil (SLO) or porbeagle shark liver oil (PLO) (10%, w/w) for 4-5 weeks. An n-6 PUFA control group was fed NP supplemented with corn oil (CO). All animals appeared healthy, with weight gains marginally lower in animals fed the marine oils. Comparison of relative organ weights indicated that only the livers responded to the diets, and that they were heavier only in the marine-oil fed guinea pigs. Heart total cholesterol levels were unaffected by supplementing NP with any of the oils, whereas all increased the triacylglycerol (TAG) content. The fatty-acid profiles of total phospholipid (TPL), TAG and free fatty acid (FFA) fractions of heart lipids showed that feeding n-3 PUFA significantly altered the proportions of specific fatty-acid classes. For example, all marine-oil-rich diets were associated with increases in total monounsaturated fatty acids in TPL (p < 0.05), and with decreases in total saturates in TAG (p < 0.05). Predictably, the n-3 PUFA enriched regimens significantly increased the cardiac content of n-3 PUFA and decreased that of n-6 PUFA, although the extent varied among the diets. As a result, n-6/n-3 ratios were significantly lower in all myocardial lipid classes of marine-oil-fed guinea pigs. Analyses of the profiles of individual PUFA indicated that quantitatively, the fatty acids of the three marine oils were metabolized and/or incorporated into TPL, TAG and FFA in a diet-specific manner. In animals fed MO-enriched diets in which eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) > docosahexacnoic acid (DHA), ratios of DHA/EPA in the hearts were 1.2, 2.2 and 1.5 in TPL, TAG and FFA, respectively. In SLO-fed guinea pigs in which dietary EPA approximately DHA, ratios of DHA/EPA were 0.9, 3.4 and 2.1 in TPL, TAG and FFA, respectively. Feeding NP + PLO (DHA/EPA = 4.8), resulted in values for DHA/EPA in cardiac tissue of 2.1, 10.6 and 2.9 in TPL, TAG and FFA, respectively. In the TAG and FFA, proportions of n-3 docosapentaenoic acid (n-3 DPA) were equal to or higher than EPA in the SLO- and PLO-fed animals. The latter group exhibited the greatest difference between the DHA/n-3 DPA ratio in the diet and in cardiac TAG and FFA fractions (7, 3.4 and 3.1, respectively). Quantitative analysis indicated that > or = 85% of the n-3 PUFA were in TPL, 7-11% were in TAG, and 2-6% were FFA. Specific patterns of distribution of EPA, DPA and DHA depended on the dietary oil. Both the qualitative and quantitative results of this study demonstrated that in guinea pigs, n-3 PUFA in different marine oils are metabolized and/or incorporated into cardiac lipids in distinct manners. In support of the concept that the diet-induced alterations reflect changes specifically in cardiomyocytes, we observed that direct supplementation of cultured guinea pig myocytes for 2-3 weeks with EPA or DHA produced changes in the PUFA profiles of their TPL that were qualitatively similar to those observed in tissue from the dietary study. The factors that regulate specific deposition of n-3 PUFA from either dietary oils or individual PUFA are not yet known, however the differences that we observed could in some manner be related to cardiac function and thus their relative potentials as health-promoting dietary fats.

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