The effects of n-3 fatty acid supplementation in the form of fresh fish, fish oil, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) oil on the fatty acid composition of plasma lipid fractions, and platelets and erythrocyte membranes of young healthy male students were examined.

Altogether 59 subjects (aged 19-32 yr, body mass index 16.8-31.3 kg/m2) were randomized into the following diet groups:
(i) control group;
(ii) fish diet group eating fish meals five times per week [0.38 +/- 0.04 g elcosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 0.67 +/- 0.09 g DHA per day];
(iii) DHA oil group taking algae-derived DHA oil capsules (1.68 g/d DHA in triglyceride form); and
(iv) fish oil group (1.33 g EPA and 0.95 g DHA/d as free fatty acids) for 14 wk.

The fatty acid composition of plasma lipids, platelets, and erythrocyte membranes was analyzed by gas chromatography. The subjects kept 4-d food records four times during the study to estimate the intake of nutrients.

In the fish diet, in DHA oil, and in fish oil groups, the amounts of n-3 fatty acids increased and those of n-6 fatty acids decreased significantly in plasma lipid fractions and in platelets and erythrocyte membranes.

A positive relationship was shown between the total n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and EPA and DHA intake and the increase in total n-3 PUFA and EPA and DHA in all lipid fractions analyzed.

DHA was preferentially incorporated into phospholipid (PL) and triglyceride (TG) and there was very little uptake in cholesterol ester (CE), while EPA was preferentially incorporated into PL. and CE. The proportion of EPA in plasma lipids and platelets and erythrocyte membranes increased also by DHA supplementation, and the proportion of linoleic acid increased in platelets and erythrocyte membranes in the DHA oil group as well.

These results suggest retroconversion of DHA to EPA and that DHA also interferes with linoleic acid metabolism.