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Effects of altering dietary fatty acid composition on prostaglandin synthesis and fertility

Prostaglandins Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids (PLEFA)
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1054/plef.1999.0101
  • Medicine


Abstract Several studies over the past 20 years have demonstrated that subjects on diets composed of substances with high levels of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) (e.g. fish) have a decreased incidence of heart disease. On this basis, a recent report from the Department of Health has advised UK consumers to decrease the proportion of saturated as opposed to unsaturated fats in their diet and to increase the ratio of n-3 to n-6 PUFAs. This could be achieved by altering the amounts of these constituents in milk and meat. n-3 Fatty acids can most easily be added to animal feed as either fish oil or linseed oil and can be increased in the blood and milk of ruminants following protection to avoid hydrogenation in the rumen. In western countries the ratio of consumption of n-6 to n-3 PUFAs is greater than 10 and current evidence tends to suggest that a ratio nearer 5 would be more desirable and compatible with cardiovascular well being. As fertility in the UK dairy herd is already poor, it is important to establish whether alterations in dietary n-3 and n-6 PUFAs affects herd fertility before widespread changes in animal diets are recommended. Therefore, this review considers the role played by PUFAs and eicosanoids in fertility, with particular reference to the implications for farm livestock production. The evidence reviewed shows that alteration of the concentration and ratio of n-6 and n-3 PUFAs in feeds can influence prostaglandin synthesis/metabolism in a number of mammalian systems. The changed patterns of prostaglandin synthesis can as a consequence, affect the diverse functions (e.g. hormone secretion) that are normally mediated via prostaglandins. Similarly, changes in prostaglandin synthesis effected through manipulation of PUFAs has a major bearing on fertility (as PGs affect many reproductive parameters, e.g. ovulation). Several studies in cattle and other mammals, show that feeding or infusing different types of fat with varying PUFA content to females can alter: the number and size of ovarian follicles, the ovulation rate, progesterone production by the corpus luteum, the timing of luteolysis and gestational length. In the male most recent work has focussed on sperm production and experiments in fowl have demonstrated clear effects of dietary PUFAs on both the sperm membrane phospholipid composition and on fertilizing ability.

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