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Feeding docosahexaenoic acid to pigs reduces blood triglycerides and induces gene expression for fat oxidation

Meadus, W.J., Duff, P., Rolland, D., Aalhus, J.L., Uttaro, B., Dugan, M.E.R. (2011). Feeding docosahexaenoic acid to pigs reduces blood triglycerides and induces gene expression for fat oxidation, 91(4), 601-612.


The essential fatty acids required in diets of humans are linoleic acid (18:2n-6:LA) and α-linolenic acid (18:3n-3: ALA), and these can be elongated and desaturated to form long-chain omega-6 or omega-3, respectively. Even though not considered essential, consumption of long-chain omega-3 fatty acid is recommended for health benefits, including protection against cardiovascular disease. The omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexanoic acid (DHA), was supplemented in pig diets as a dried biomass of the microalgae Schizochytrium to see if there are unique physiological changes associated with DHA feeding. Pigs were fed a diet with 330 mg (low), 3600 mg (medium) or 9400 mg (high) DHA per day for the last 25 d before slaughter at market weight (~110 kg). Blood triglycerides (TG) were assayed colormetrically and tissue samples were analyzed for gene expression patterns of RNA by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. Fatty acids were analyzed by gas chromatography. Animal performance appeared to increase with DHA, as shown by a 14% improved feed:gain ratio of 2.74±0.27 (P<0.05). Blood triglycerides were reduced significantly from 0.40±0.23 mM to 0.207±0.09 mM. Pigs accumulated 14 times more DHA in their subcutaneous fat (SQ) (10.67 mg g-1) on the high diet compared with the control diet (0.75 mg g-1). Gene analysis showed that the expression of the fat oxidation biomarkers acyl CoA oxidase 1 (ACOX1), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors alpha (PPARα) and gamma (PPARγ) were stimulated in the SQ and liver. The delta-6 desaturase (D6D) and elongase (Elov5), which are genes involved in the endogenous synthesis of DHA, were unchanged. Fatty acid synthase (FASN) was stimulated in the liver and muscle of pigs on the high DHA diet. Analysis of gene transcription activity suggested fat metabolism was stimulated in the liver and SQ fat, but the genes involved in the endogenous production of DHA remained unchanged.

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