British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Behaviour, Appetite and Obesity

Plasma n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are negatively associated with obesity

Michelle Micallefa1, Irene Munroa1, Melinda Phanga1 and Manohar Garga1a2 c1

a1 Nutraceuticals Research Group, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia

a2 Hunter Medical Research Institute, John Hunter Hospital, New Lambton, NSW 2310, Australia


The objective of the present study was to investigate the relationship between plasma n-3 PUFA composition and weight status. A total of 124 adults, stratified by weight status: healthy weight (n 21), overweight (n 40) and obese (n 63) were recruited. Fasting blood samples, anthropometric measures and body composition were collected. Plasma fatty acid composition was determined by GC. BMI, waist circumference and hip circumference were inversely correlated with n-3 PUFA, EPA and DHA (P < 0·05 for all) in the obese group. Obese individuals had significantly lower plasma concentrations of total n-3 PUFA, compared with healthy-weight individuals (4·53 (sd 1·11) v. 5·25 (sd 1·43) %). When subjects were pooled and stratified into quartiles of total n-3 PUFA, a significant inverse trend was found for BMI (P = 0·002), waist circumference and hip circumference (P = 0·01 and P < 0·001 respectively). Higher plasma levels of total n-3 PUFA are associated with a healthier BMI, waist circumference and hip circumference. Our findings suggest that n-3 PUFA may play an important role in weight status and abdominal adiposity.

(Received October 03 2008)

(Revised March 19 2009)

(Accepted April 22 2009)

(Online publication May 19 2009)


c1 Corresponding author: Professor Manohar Garg, fax +61 02 4921 2028, email


Abbreviations: FM, fat mass