A dietary deprivation in long-chain polyunsaturated omega3 fatty acids initiated in 7-week old normal rats provokes within 3 to 7 months the appearance of several features of the metabolic syndrome. Likewise, within 2 to 4-5 weeks exposure to a flaxseed oil-enriched diet, these anomalies are rapidly corrected.

The present study deals with the omega3 fatty acid content of intestinal phospholipids under the same experimental conditions. For the sake of comparison, the control rats were given access during the last 4-5 weeks to either a soybean or flaxseed oil-enriched diet. In control rats, the relative weight content of omega3 fatty acids as well as their product/precursor ratio differed in distinct segments of the intestinal tract (duodenum, jejunum, caecum, colon).

Within 3 months of omega3-deprivation, the intestinal content of C18:3omega3, C20:5omega3 and C22:5omega3 reached values below the limit of detection, whilst the C22:6omega3 content progressively decreased down to 10-20% of control values. Within 2 weeks of exposure to the omega3-rich diet, the C18:3omega3, C20:5omega3 and C22:5omega3 content of intestinal phospholipids were higher than control values, whilst that of C22:6omega3 progressively returned to a normal level during the 2 to 4-5 weeks exposure to the flaxseed oil-enriched diet.

The results collected in the intestinal cells, which are the first cells exposed to each given diet, reinforce the view that the present animal model is quite suitable to assess the metabolic consequences of both omega3 fatty acid deprivation and replenishment.