The effects of n-3 fatty acid deficiency and repletion upon the fatty acid composition and function of the brain and retina.

W. E. Connor, Martha Neuringer

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    85 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    It is now apparent that both n-6 and n-3 fatty acids are essential for normal development in mammals, and that each has specific functions in the body. N-6 fatty acids are necessary primarily for growth, reproduction, and the maintenance of skin integrity, whereas n-3 fatty acids are involved in the development and function of the retina and cerebral cortex and perhaps other organs such as the testes. Fetal life and infancy are particularly critical for the nervous tissue development. Therefore, with respect to human nutrition, adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids should be provided during pregnancy, lactation and infancy, but probably throughout life. We estimate that adequate levels are provided by diets containing 6-8% kcals from linoleic acid and 1% from n-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid, EPA and DHA), resulting in a ratio of n-6 to n-3 fatty acids of 4:1 to 10:1. The essentiality of n-3 fatty acids resides in their presence as DHA in vital membranes of the photoreceptors of the retina and the synaptosomes and other subcellular membranes of the brain. The replacement of DHA in deficient animals by the n-6 fatty acid, 22:5, results in abnormal functioning of the membranes for reasons as yet to be ascertained. Most significant is the lability of fatty acid composition in the retinal and brain of deficient animals. Dietary fish oil, which contains EPA and DHA, will readily lead to a change in the composition of the membrane of retina and brain, fatty acids, with DHA replacing the n-6 fatty acid, 22:5. The interrelationships between the chemistry of neural and retinal membranes as affected by diet and their biological functioning provides an exciting prospect for future investigations.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)275-294
    Number of pages20
    JournalProgress in Clinical and Biological Research
    Volume282
    StatePublished - 1988

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    Omega-3 Fatty Acids
    Retina
    Fatty Acids
    Brain
    Membranes
    Omega-6 Fatty Acids
    Unsaturated Dietary Fats
    Diet
    Nerve Tissue
    alpha-Linolenic Acid
    Synaptosomes
    Fish Oils
    Linoleic Acid
    Lactation
    Cerebral Cortex
    Reproduction
    Testis
    Mammals
    Maintenance
    Pregnancy

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Medicine(all)

    Cite this

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    abstract = "It is now apparent that both n-6 and n-3 fatty acids are essential for normal development in mammals, and that each has specific functions in the body. N-6 fatty acids are necessary primarily for growth, reproduction, and the maintenance of skin integrity, whereas n-3 fatty acids are involved in the development and function of the retina and cerebral cortex and perhaps other organs such as the testes. Fetal life and infancy are particularly critical for the nervous tissue development. Therefore, with respect to human nutrition, adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids should be provided during pregnancy, lactation and infancy, but probably throughout life. We estimate that adequate levels are provided by diets containing 6-8{\%} kcals from linoleic acid and 1{\%} from n-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid, EPA and DHA), resulting in a ratio of n-6 to n-3 fatty acids of 4:1 to 10:1. The essentiality of n-3 fatty acids resides in their presence as DHA in vital membranes of the photoreceptors of the retina and the synaptosomes and other subcellular membranes of the brain. The replacement of DHA in deficient animals by the n-6 fatty acid, 22:5, results in abnormal functioning of the membranes for reasons as yet to be ascertained. Most significant is the lability of fatty acid composition in the retinal and brain of deficient animals. Dietary fish oil, which contains EPA and DHA, will readily lead to a change in the composition of the membrane of retina and brain, fatty acids, with DHA replacing the n-6 fatty acid, 22:5. The interrelationships between the chemistry of neural and retinal membranes as affected by diet and their biological functioning provides an exciting prospect for future investigations.",
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