British Journal of Nutrition

Research Article

Effects of dietary n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, breed and dietary vitamin E on the fatty acids of lamb muscle, liver and adipose tissue

G. Demirela1, A. M. Wachiraa2, L. A. Sinclaira2, R. G. Wilkinsona2, J. D. Wooda1 and M. Ensera1 c1

a1 Division of Farm Animal Science, School of Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, Langford, Bristol BS40 5DU, UK

a2 ASRC, Harper Adams University College, School of Agriculture, Edgmond, Newport, Shropshire TF10 8NB, UK


The effect of feeding n-3 PUFA on the fatty acid composition of muscle, adipose tissue and liver of lambs was investigated. Groups of eight ram lambs per breed, Suffolk×Lleyn (24kg live weight) and Scottish Blackface (18kg live weight), were each fed one of six diets containing one of three fat sources (50g fatty acids/kg DM; Megalac® (calcium soap of palm fatty acid distillate; Volac Ltd, Royston, Herts., UK) and formaldehyde-treated whole linseed (Trouw Nutrition UK, Northwich, Ches., UK) either alone or with fish oil (1:1, w/w) and either 100 or 500mg α-tocopheryl acetate/kg DM. Feed was offered ad libitum until slaughter at approximately half breed mature live weight. The type of dietary fat had no effect on intake, growth rate or feed conversion ratio. The 3·0-fold higher concentration of 18:3n-3 in the linseed compared with the Megalac® diet approximately doubled (P<0·001) the concentration in the neutral and polar lipid fractions of musculus semimembranosus and liver, and in adipose tissue it increased 2·5-fold. Feeding protected linseed also increased (P<0·001) concentrations of 20:5n-3 and 22:5n-3 in muscle polar lipids and both lipid fractions of liver. The linseed–fish oil raised the 20:5n-3 concentrations above those for the linseed diet and also increased 22:6n-3. Scottish Blackface lambs had lower concentrations of 18:3n-3 in all lipids compared with Suffolk x Lleyn lambs, but more 20:5n-3 in the polar lipids of muscle and liver. High levels of dietary vitamin E were associated with small decreases in the concentration of monounsaturated fatty acids and increases in PUFA. Linseed raised the PUFA:saturated fatty acid ratios in liver and adipose tissue but not in muscle, and improved the n-6:n-3 fatty acid ratio, as did the linseed–fish oil. Different combinations of dietary fatty acids and better protection against rumen biohydrogenation are required to improve muscle PUFA:saturated fatty acids ratios.

(Received October 16 2002)

(Revised November 28 2003)

(Accepted December 01 2003)


c1 *Corresponding author: Dr M. Enser, fax +44 117 928 9324, email