British Journal of Nutrition

Research Article

Polyunsaturated fatty acid concentrations in young men and women consuming their habitual diets

Lucy Bakewella1, Graham C. Burdgea1 c1 and Philip C. Caldera1

a1 Institute of Human Nutrition, Developmental Origins of Health and Disease Division, University of Southampton, Southampton SO16 7PX, UK

Abstract

Young women of reproductive age appear to have a greater capacity than men to convert the essential fatty acid α-linolenic acid to DHA. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that gender-related differences in n-3 PUFA metabolism are reflected in the concentrations of n-3 PUFA in plasma lipids. The subjects were healthy men (n 13) and women (n 23) aged 18–35 years consuming their habitual diet. Dietary habits were assessed by food-frequency questionnaire. Venous blood samples were collected following an overnight fast. For the women, blood collection took place on the tenth day of their menstrual cycle. The fatty acid concentrations of plasma phosphatidylcholine, triacylglycerol, NEFA and cholesteryl esters were determined by gas chromatography. There were no significant differences between men and women in their consumption of protein, carbohydrate, total fat, alcohol, individual fatty acids and selected micronutrients. DHA concentration alone was significantly higher in plasma phosphatidylcholine (31%, p=0·02), triacylglycerol (71%, p=0·02) and NEFA (33%, p=0·01), but not cholesteryl esters, in women compared with men. There were no significant differences between men and women in the concentrations of any other fatty acids measured. Overall, the present data support the suggestion that greater DHA synthesis in women than men results in a higher DHA concentration in plasma lipids.

(Received October 18 2005)

(Revised February 21 2006)

(Accepted March 07 2006)

Correspondence:

c1 *Corresponding author: Dr G. C. Burdge, fax +44 (0)238 04379, email g.c.burdge@soton.ac.uk

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