European Journal of Nutrition

, Volume 56, Issue 3, pp 1281–1291 | Cite as

Plasma n-3 polyunsaturated fatty status and its relationship with vitamin E intake and plasma level

  • Yang Zhao
  • Frank J. Monahan
  • Breige A. McNulty
  • Kaifeng Li
  • Frederick J. Bloomfield
  • Daniel J. Duff
  • Lorraine Brennan
  • Anne P. Nugent
  • Eileen R. GibneyEmail author
Original Contribution



The aim of the study was to investigate habitual vitamin E intake and plasma α-tocopherol concentration and their relationship with plasma fatty acid profile in a healthy adult population.


Vitamin E and fatty acid intake data were determined from the National Adult Nutrition Survey. Plasma α- and γ-tocopherol concentrations were quantified by high-performance liquid chromatography and the percentage of fatty acids in plasma by gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry. Participants (n = 601) were divided into vitamin E intake quartiles and plasma α-tocopherol quartiles, and differences in fatty acid intake and plasma fatty acid profile were analyzed by a general linear model.


Dietary intake data showed that as vitamin E intake increased, intakes of total polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) and α-linolenic acid increased significantly (p < 0.001), but eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) did not. After adjusting for fatty acid intake, vitamin E intake was positively related to plasma n-3 PUFA (EPA and DHA) levels and plasma n-3/n-6 PUFA ratio. Plasma α-tocopherol concentration was positively related to the percentage of plasma total PUFA, n-3 PUFA and EPA and inversely related to the percentage of plasma n-6 PUFA.


The study illustrates that there are statistical relationships between plasma fatty acid profile and both vitamin E intake and plasma α-tocopherol concentration. Vitamin E may play a role in the maintenance of plasma n-3 PUFA profile in humans with consequent desirable health effects.


Polyunsaturated fatty acid α-Tocopherol Vitamin E intake EPA DHA n-3/n-6 PUFA ratio 



The authors wish to thank the respondents and fieldworkers of the NANS for their contribution to the data collection for the present study. The financial support of China Scholarship Council is gratefully acknowledged. This study is financially supported by Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine under the Food for Health Research Initiative.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standards

Ethical approval for the survey was obtained from the Human Ethics Research Committee of University College Dublin and the University College Cork Clinical Research Ethics Committee of the Cork Teaching Hospitals. Participants who agreed to take part signed a written consent form in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.

Supplementary material

394_2016_1178_MOESM1_ESM.docx (37 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 36 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yang Zhao
    • 1
  • Frank J. Monahan
    • 1
  • Breige A. McNulty
    • 1
  • Kaifeng Li
    • 1
  • Frederick J. Bloomfield
    • 2
  • Daniel J. Duff
    • 2
  • Lorraine Brennan
    • 1
  • Anne P. Nugent
    • 1
  • Eileen R. Gibney
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.UCD Institute of Food and HealthUniversity College DublinDublin 4Republic of Ireland
  2. 2.Chemical Analysis Laboratories LtdSandycoveRepublic of Ireland

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