, Volume 25, Issue 12, pp 798–806 | Cite as

Reduced adipose 18∶3ω3 with weight loss by very low calorie dieting

  • Stephen D. Phinney
  • Anna B. Tang
  • Susan B. Johnson
  • Ralph T. Holman


The human undergoing rapid and sustained weight loss by very low calorie dieting (VLCD) derives the majority of daily energy needs from adipose fatty acids. To evaluate the rates of metabolic utilization of individual fatty acids in humans, two groups of adult women outpatients were studied during major weight loss by VLCD. The diets used were either food or formula, providing the recommended dietary allowance for minerals and vitamins, with fat contents of 2–20 g/d. Group 1 consisted of 10 subjects [initial body mass index (BMI) 32.7, 157% of ideal body weight (IBW)] with a mean loss of 17.7 kg in 3–5 months. Group 2 consisted of 14 subjects (initial BMI 36.7, 167% of IBW) with a mean loss of 25.6 kg in 4–5 months. Adipose tissue biopsies were obtained by needle aspiration from Group 1 before and after weight loss and from Group 2 before, at the midpoint, and after weight loss. With weight loss in Group 1, the adipose tissue content of 18∶1ω9, 18∶2ω6, and 20∶4ω6 did not change, but 18∶3ω3 fell (0.67 to 0.56 wt%, p<0.0001) as did 20∶5ω3 (0.08 to 0.05, p<0.01). Adipose tissue 22∶6ω3 rose from 0.03 to 0.07 (p<0.01). In Group 2, only 18∶3ω3 showed a change, falling from 0.71 to 0.69 to 0.59 wt% across weight loss (p=0.03 by analysis of variance). We conclude that the major fatty acids are oxidized in proportion to their composition in adipose triglyceride. The significant reduction in the concentration of 18∶3ω3 during weight loss is unique among fatty acids. Its accelerated removal from adipose tissue indicates either a preferential step in β-oxidation or a defined need during supplemented fasting which exceeds its rate of provision from adipose stores.


Adipose Tissue Ideal Body Weight Rapid Weight Loss Initial Body Mass Index Major Weight Loss 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



analysis of variance


body mass index (weight in kg divided by the square of height in meters)


cholesteryl esters


docosahexaenoic acid (22∶6ω3)


essential fatty acid


elcosapentaenoic acid (20∶5ω3)


fatty acid methyl esters


Tree (non-esterified) fatty acids


fat free mass


ideal body weight


meat/fish/poultry very low calorie diet


Optifast formula diet (Sandoz Nutrition)




polyunsaturated fatty acids


recommended dietary allowance




very low calorie diet


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Copyright information

© American Oil Chemists’ Society 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen D. Phinney
    • 1
    • 2
  • Anna B. Tang
    • 1
  • Susan B. Johnson
    • 3
  • Ralph T. Holman
    • 3
  1. 1.Division of Clinical Nutrition, Department of MedicineUniversity of California at Davis School of Medicine TB-156Davis
  2. 2.Department of Food Science and NutritionUniversity of MinnesotaSt. Paul
  3. 3.Hormel InstituteUniversity of MinnesotaAustin

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