British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Novel methodologies for assessing omega-3 fatty acid status – a systematic review

Mario Klinglera1 and Berthold Koletzkoa1 c1

a1 University of Munich Medical Center, Dr. von Hauner Children's Hospital, Div. Metabolic and Nutritional Medicine, München, Germany


Over the last few decades n-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid status became of special interest for scientists. Biochemical measures on the n-3 fatty acid status vary depending on body compartment assessed and measures chosen. Plasma phospholipids and red blood cell membrane phospholipids are mainly used as n-3 fatty acid status marker. The conventional analysis of phospholipid fatty acids involves lipid extraction and consecutive chromatographic separation of phospholipids from other lipid fractions, which is time-consuming and costly. In recent years, different investigators have tried to overcome these limitations by using other biological markers or by modifying the analytical procedures used to assess n-3 fatty acid status. The aim of this systematic review was to provide an overview on these novel analytical methods developed for the fatty acid quantification by gas chromatography, highlights the methodological limitations, and discusses advantages or disadvantages of the biological markers used. Seventeen papers were identified that fulfilled the inclusion criteria. New opportunities arise from sensitive and precise high-throughput methodologies for assessment of plasma total lipid and plasma glycerophospholipid fatty acids, as well as cheek cell fatty acid composition.


c1 Corresponding author: Berthold Koletzko, fax +49-89-5160-7742, email


Abbreviations: ARA, arachidonic acid; BHT, butylhydroxytoluene; CE, cholesterol esters; DHA, docosahexaenoic acid; EPA, eicosapentaenoic acid; FAME, fatty acid methyl esters; LC-PUFA, long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids; NEFA, non-esterified fatty acids; PL, phospholipids; RBC, red blood cells; SFA, saturated fatty acids; SP, sphingomyeline; TAG, triacylglycerides(182 words)