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Biohydrogenation of dietary n-3 PUFA and stability of ingested vitamin E in the rumen, and their effects on microbial activity in sheep

  • S. Chikunya (a1), G. Demirel (a2), M. Enser (a2), J. D. Wood (a2), R. G. Wilkinson (a1) and L. A. Sinclair (a1)...


The present study investigated the susceptibility of dietary n-3 PUFA to ruminal biohydrogenation, the stability of ingested vitamin E in the rumen and the subsequent uptake of PUFA and vitamin E into plasma. Six cannulated sheep were assigned to six diets over five 33d periods, in an incomplete 6×5 Latin square. The diets, based on dried grass, were formulated to supply 50g fatty acids/kg DM using three lipid sources: Megalac® (calcium soap of palm fatty acid distillate; Volac Ltd, Royston, Herts., UK), linseed (formaldehyde-treated; Trouw Nutrition, Northwich, Ches., UK) and linseed–fish oil (formaldehyde-treated linseed+fish oil). The diets were supplemented with 100 or 500mg α-tocopheryl acetate/kg DM. Fat source or level of vitamin E in the diet did not alter microbial activity in the rumen. Biohydrogenation of linoleic acid (18:3n-6; 85–90%), linolenic acid (18:3n-3; 88–93%), docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3; 91%) and EPA (20:5n-3; 92%) was extensive. Feeding formaldehyde-treated linseed elevated concentrations of 18:3n-3 in plasma, whilst 22:6n-3 and 20:5n-3 were only increased by feeding the linseed–fish oil blend. Duodenal recovery of ingested vitamin E was high (range 0·79–0·92mg/mg fed). High dietary vitamin E was associated with increased plasma α-tocopherol (2·57 v. 1·46μg/ml for 500 and 100mg α-tocopheryl acetate/kg DM respectively), although all concentrations were low. Plasma vitamin E levels, however, tended to decrease as the type and quantity of PUFA in the diet increased. The present study illustrates that nutritionally beneficial PUFA in both fish and linseed oils are highly susceptible to biohydrogenation in the rumen. Although α-tocopheryl acetate resisted degradation in the rumen, plasma vitamin E status remained deficient to borderline, suggesting either that uptake may have been impaired or metabolism post-absorption increased.

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Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Dr Sifelani Chikunya, present address: Faculty of Applied Science and Technology, Writtle College, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 3RR, UK, fax +44 1952 420456, email


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