The metabolic effects and immune responses of different levels of fish oil in enteral formulas for postburn nutritional support were studied.

Thirty-seven burned guinea pigs with previously placed gastrostomy feeding tubes were given diets containing 5, 15, 30, or 50% of nonprotein calories as fish oil. These diets were isonitrogenous, isocaloric, and contained identical amounts of vitamins and minerals.

After 14 days of enteral feeding, there were no significant differences in resting metabolic expenditure, serum transferrin, and albumin levels. Weight loss was significantly greater in groups receiving 30 and 50% of fish oil compared to groups which received 5 and 15% of fish oil. Carcass weights and liver weights of animals in the two groups that received diets with higher lipid content were also significantly lower. Cell-mediated immunity, macrophage bactericidal indices, and opsonic indices were not different among the groups.

This study confirms that diets containing lower levels of lipids are more effective for enteral nutritional support than those containing higher levels. In contrast to linoleic acid rich lipid sources, higher levels of fish oil did not show adverse effects on immunity possibly because it contained high concentrations of omega 3 fatty acids which are not precursors of immunosuppressive prostaglandin E2.