A blood biomarker of omega-3 fatty acid intake and tissue status could serve as a modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The percentage of omega-3 highly unsaturated fatty acid (HUFA > or = 20 carbons and > or =3 double bonds) in the total HUFA pool (the n-3 HUFA score) was examined as a potential blood biomarker of omega-3 fatty acids in tissues.

The fatty acid composition of total lipid extracts (TLE) and phospholipid (PL) fractions were determined for plasma and erythrocytes samples of human subjects (n = 20) and the n-3 HUFA score and the sum of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) were compared. Omega-3 fatty acids in blood and tissues of rats (n = 31) and pigs (n = 48) were also determined and the associations were compared. The n-3 HUFA score is more consistent across plasma and erythrocytes, with strong correlations between TLE and PL in plasma (r = 0.93) and erythrocytes (r = 0.94). The n-3 HUFA score was less variable and blood levels correlated strongly with various animal tissues.

The n-3 HUFA score is a useful blood biomarker that does not require the isolation of the PL class thereby supporting high throughput analyses. The strength of association between the n-3 HUFA score and disease risk needs to be examined.

Keywords Omega-3 fatty acids - Docosahexaenoic acid - Eicosapentaenoic acid - Biomarker - Plasma - Erythrocyte

PMID: 17985169