Basic Science| Volume 62, ISSUE 4, P499-508, April 2013

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The effect of varying ratios of docosahexaenoic acid and arachidonic acid in the prevention and reversal of biochemical essential fatty acid deficiency in a murine model

Published:November 14, 2012DOI:



      Essential fatty acids (EFA) are necessary for growth, development, and biological function, and must be acquired through the diet. While linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) have been considered the true EFAs, we previously demonstrated that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA) taken together as the sole source of dietary fatty acids can prevent biochemical essential fatty acid deficiency (EFAD). This study evaluates the effect of varying dietary ratios of DHA:AA in the prevention and reversal of biochemical EFAD in a murine model.


      Using a murine model of EFAD, we provided mice with 2.1% of daily caloric intake in varying DHA:AA ratios (1:1, 5:1, 10:1, 20:1, 200:1, 100:0) for 19 days in association with a liquid high-carbohydrate fat-free diet to evaluate the effect on fatty acid profiles. In a second experiment, we evaluated the provision of varying DHA:AA ratios (20:1, 200:1, 100:0) on the reversal of biochemical EFAD.


      Mice provided with DHA and AA had no evidence of biochemical EFAD, regardless of the ratio (1:1, 5:1, 10:1, 20:1, 200:1, 100:0) administered. Biochemical EFAD was reversed with DHA:AA ratios of 20:1, 200:1, and 100:0 following 3 and 5 weeks of dietary provision, although the 20:1 ratio was most effective in the reversal and stabilization of the triene:tetraene ratio.


      Provision of DHA and AA, at 2.1% of daily caloric intake in varying ratios can prevent biochemical evidence of EFAD and hepatic steatosis over the short-term, with a ratio of 20:1 DHA:AA most effectively reversing EFAD.


      AA (arachidonic acid), ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), ALT (alanine aminotransferase), ANOVA (analysis of variance), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), EFA (essential fatty acids), EFAD (essential fatty acid deficiency), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), FA (fatty acid), H&E (hematoxylin and eosin), HCD (high carbohydrate diet), HCO (hydrogenated coconut oil), LA (linoleic acid), MA (Mead acid), PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acid), SD (standard deviation), T:T (triene–tetraene.)


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