Although dietary n-3 fatty acids have been extensively studied in poultry, they have not yet been prospectively investigated in psittacines, despite potential benefits for preventing and treating atherosclerosis, osteoarthritis, and other chronic disease processes.

The objectives of this study were to investigate the incorporation of dietary n-3 fatty acids into red blood cells (RBC) and to determine the effects of supplementation of psittacine diets with fish or flax oil on plasma lipids and lipoproteins in the cockatiel.

Adult cockatiels were fed a custom-formulated diet containing either 4% (wt/wt, as-fed) beef tallow (CON), 3% fish oil + 1% tallow (FSH), or 3.5% flax oil + 0.5% tallow (FLX; n = 20 per diet group). Baseline measurements were obtained for RBC fatty acid composition, triacylglycerides (TAG), and cholesterol. After 8 to 13 wk on the study diets, plasma chemistry profiles, lipoprotein density profiles, and RBC fatty acid composition were determined. At 8 wk, total plasma cholesterol was least in FSH birds (P < 0.05) and TAG concentrations were less in FSH birds than FLX birds (P < 0.05).

Total n-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid, docosapentaenoic acid, and eicosapentaenoic acid were markedly greater in the RBC of FSH birds than FLX or CON birds (P < 0.05). Alpha linolenic acid was greatest in FLX (P < 0.05). Initial and final BW, and nonlipid plasma chemistry values did not differ among diet groups. No adverse effects of dietary supplementation of cockatiels with 3.5% flax oil or 3% fish oil were observed during the 13-wk feeding period.

Although fish and flax oils provided similar total n-3 PUFA to the diets, fish oil caused greater reductions in cholesterol and TAG, and greater total RBC n-3 incorporation.

Thus, dietary modification of psittacine diets with long chain n-3 PUFA from fish oil appears safe and may be beneficial to these long-lived companion birds.

PMID 22585819

See following website for full manuscript.