Bell JG, Mackinlay EE, Dick JR, Younger I, Lands B (2011) Br J Nutrition in press
It is well accepted that n-3 long-chain PUFA intake is positively associated with a range of health benefits. However, while benefits have been clearly shown, especially for CVD, the mechanisms for prevention/benefit are less understood.
Analysis of plasma and erythrocyte phospholipids (PL) have been used to measure the status of the highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA), especially EPA (20:5 n-3) and DHA (22:6 n-3), although the time and complexity of the process places limitations on the sample numbers analysed.
An assay has been developed using whole blood, collected by finger prick, and stored on absorbant paper, subjected to direct methylation and fatty acids quantified by automated GC. Tests on fatty acid stability show that blood samples are stable when stored at -20 degrees C for 1 month although some loss of HUFA was seen at 4 degrees C. A total of fifty-one patients, including twenty-seven who consumed no fatty acid supplements, provided a blood sample for analysis.
Concentrations of all major fatty acids were measured in erythrocyte PL and whole blood. The major HUFA, including EPA, DHA and arachidonic acid (ARA; 20:4 n-6), as well as the ARA:EPA ratio and the percentage n-3 HUFA/total HUFA all showed good correlations, between erythrocyte PL and whole blood. Values of r 2 ranged from 0.48 for ARA to 0.95 for the percentage of n-3 HUFA/total HUFA.
This assay provides a non-invasive, rapid and reliable method of HUFA quantification with the percentage of n-3 HUFA value providing a potential blood biomarker for large-scale nutritional trials.