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Modification of dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids via complementary food enhances n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid synthesis in healthy infants: a double blinded randomised controlled trial


Objective: To study the effect of modified polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) profiles of complementary food on long-chain (LC) PUFA composition in healthy infants.

Design: Double blinded, randomised, controlled intervention trial.

Setting: Dortmund, Germany.

Patients: Free-living sample of healthy term infants.

Methods: Participants were randomly assigned within the first 2 months of life. During the intervention period from 4 to 10 months, the control group (n  =  53) received commercial complementary meals with corn oil (3.4 g/meal) rich in n-6 linoleic acid (LA), the intervention group (n  =  49) received the same meals with rapeseed oil (1.6 g/meal) rich in n-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Fatty acid intake was assessed from dietary records throughout the intervention period. Fatty acid proportions (% of total fatty acid) in total plasma were analysed before and after the intervention.

Results: Plasma fatty acid profiles did not differ between the intervention and control groups before the intervention. During the intervention, the only difference in fatty acid intake between the intervention and control groups was a higher intake of ALA in the intervention group, 21% deriving from study food and a lower ratio of LA/ALA (10.7 vs 14.8). At the end of the intervention, the plasma proportions of total n-3 fatty acids and of n-3 LC-PUFA, but not of ALA, were higher and the ratios of n-6/n-3 fatty acids were lower in the intervention group.

Conclusions: Feasible dietary modifications of the precursor fatty acid profile via n-3 PUFA-rich vegetable oil favoured n-3 LC-PUFA synthesis in the complementary feeding period when LC-PUFA intake from breast milk and formula is decreasing.

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