, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 45–53

The Percentage of n-3 Highly Unsaturated Fatty Acids in Total HUFA as a Biomarker for Omega-3 Fatty Acid Status in Tissues

Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11745-007-3128-3

Cite this article as:
Stark, K.D. Lipids (2008) 43: 45. doi:10.1007/s11745-007-3128-3


A blood biomarker of omega-3 fatty acid intake and tissue status could serve as a modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The percentage of omega-3 highly unsaturated fatty acid (HUFA ≥ 20 carbons and ≥3 double bonds) in the total HUFA pool (the n-3 HUFA score) was examined as a potential blood biomarker of omega-3 fatty acids in tissues. The fatty acid composition of total lipid extracts (TLE) and phospholipid (PL) fractions were determined for plasma and erythrocytes samples of human subjects (n = 20) and the n-3 HUFA score and the sum of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) were compared. Omega-3 fatty acids in blood and tissues of rats (n = 31) and pigs (n = 48) were also determined and the associations were compared. The n-3 HUFA score is more consistent across plasma and erythrocytes, with strong correlations between TLE and PL in plasma (r = 0.93) and erythrocytes (r = 0.94). The n-3 HUFA score was less variable and blood levels correlated strongly with various animal tissues. The n-3 HUFA score is a useful blood biomarker that does not require the isolation of the PL class thereby supporting high throughput analyses. The strength of association between the n-3 HUFA score and disease risk needs to be examined.


Omega-3 fatty acids Docosahexaenoic acid Eicosapentaenoic acid Biomarker Plasma Erythrocyte 

Copyright information

© AOCS 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Laboratory of Nutritional and Nutraceutical Research, Department of KinesiologyUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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