The effect of dietary arachidonic acid on plasma lipoprotein distributions, apoproteins, blood lipid levels, and tissue fatty acid composition in humans


Normal healthy male volunteers (n=10) were fed diets (high-AA) containing 1.7 g/d of arachidonic acid (AA) for 50 d. The control (low-AA) diet contained 210 mg/d of AA. Dietary AA had no statistically significant effect on the blood cholesterol levels, lipoprotein distribution, or apoprotein levels. Adipose tissue fatty acid composition was not influenced by AA feeding. The plasma total fatty acid composition was markedly enriched in AA after 50 d (P<0.005). The fatty acid composition of plasma lipid fractions, cholesterol esters, triglycerides, free fatty acids, and phospholipid (PL) showed marked differences in the degree of enrichment in AA. The PL plasma fraction from the subjects consuming the low-AA diet contained 10.3% AA while the subjects who consumed the high-AA diet had plasma PL fractions containing 19.0% AA. The level of 22:4n-6 also was different (0.67 to 1.06%) in the plasma PL fraction after 50 d of AA feeding. After consuming the high-AA diet, the total red blood cell fatty acid composition was significantly enriched in AA which mainly replaced linoleic acid. These results indicate that dietary AA is incorporated into tissue lipids, but selectively into different tissues and lipid classes. Perhaps more importantly, the results demonstrate that dietary AA does not alter blood lipids or lipoprotein levels or have obvious adverse health effects at this level and duration of feeding.

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arachidonic acid


adipose tissue


fatty acid


free fatty acids


high density lipoprotein


low density lipoprotein


metabolic research unit




red blood cells




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Correspondence to G. J. Nelson.

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Nelson, G.J., Schmidt, P.C., Bartolini, G. et al. The effect of dietary arachidonic acid on plasma lipoprotein distributions, apoproteins, blood lipid levels, and tissue fatty acid composition in humans. Lipids 32, 427–433 (1997).

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  • Major Fatty Acid
  • Plasma Fatty Acid
  • Arachidonic Acid Level
  • Linoleic Acid Level
  • Tissue Fatty Acid Composition