Free Access
Reprod. Nutr. Dev.
Volume 44, Number 3, May-June 2004
Page(s) 273 - 282
Reprod. Nutr. Dev. 44 (2004) 273-282
DOI: 10.1051/rnd:2004034

Alteration of polyunsaturated fatty acid status and metabolism in health and disease

Nicolas Zamaria

Laboratoire de Biologie Médicale, 49 avenue de Versailles, 75016 Paris, France

Abstract - Essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) cannot be synthesised in the body and must be ingested by food. A balanced intake of both n-6 and n-3 PUFA is essential for good health. PUFA are the basic constituents of phospholipid membranes and determine cellular membrane fluidity and modulate enzyme activities, carriers and membrane receptors. They are also precursors of active metabolites known collectively as eicosanoids (prostaglandins, prostacyclins, thromboxanes and leukotrienes) which regulate our cellular functions. Studies indicate that n-3 PUFA have anti-inflammatory, antithrombotic, antiarrhythmic actions and immuno-modulating properties. Erythrocyte fatty acid status is a reflection of dietary fat intake. It also explores PUFA metabolism and gives information about the integration of these fatty acids into cellular membranes. Thus, erythrocyte fatty acid analysis can detect PUFA insufficiencies and imbalances from the diet, but also metabolic abnormalities and lipid peroxidation. It can be helpful in the prevention and the control of chronic diseases in which PUFA alterations have been observed as coronary heart diseases, hypertension, cancer, diabetes, inflammatory and auto-immune disorders, atopic eczema, Alzheimer dementia, major depression, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, etc.

Key words: essential fatty acids / erythrocytes / metabolism / chronic diseases

Corresponding author: Nicolas Zamaria

© INRA, EDP Sciences 2004