Docosahexaenoic acid concentrations in retinal phospholipids of piglets fed an infant formula enriched with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids: effects of egg phospholipids and fish oils with different ratios of eicosapentaenoic acid to docosahexaenoic acid.Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Mar; 67(3):377-85.AJ
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 22:6n-3) is the major fatty acid in the phosphatidylethanolamine of photoreceptor cells. The supply of preformed DHA in milk may play an important role in early human visual development. We examined the effect of adding dietary DHA from yolk or fish oil on its accretion in the retina of newborn piglets fed artificially for 2 wk. DHA-enriched eggs from hens fed rapeseed oil and two fish oils with a high or low ratio of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA; 20:5n-3) to DHA were used. The basic (conventional) formula contained (% by wt of total fatty acids) 17% linoleic acid (18:2n-6) and 1.3% alpha-linolenic acid (18:3n-3). The yolk-enriched formula also contained 0.5% arachidonic acid (AA; 20:4n-6) and 0.4% DHA. The fish-oil-enriched formulas contained either 0.3% EPA and 0.2% DHA (from salmon oil) or < 0.1% EPA and 0.3% DHA (low-EPA fish oil used at a low concentration), or 0.1% AA, 0.3% EPA, and 0.9% DHA (low-EPA fish oil used at a high concentration). The low-EPA fish oil used at a low concentration can supply the DHA required without increasing the EPA status but only the yolk-enriched formula allowed the artificially reared piglets to attain the same AA status in blood lipids as with sow milk feeding. The DHA concentration plateaued in the retina when it reached 7.5% by wt of total fatty acids in plasma phospholipids. Yolk phospholipids and fish oils are equally potent sources for supplying the highest retinal DHA concentration, which was found to be 41.7% by wt of total fatty acids in phosphatidylethanolamine (compared with 35% without supplementation). Inclusion of 0.2-0.3% DHA ensures maximal DHA accretion in the retina but cosupplementation with AA is necessary to achieve the status with maternal feeding in blood lipids and to prevent any possible imbalance between n-6 and n-3 fatty acids.