Manipulation of the n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Content of Muscle and Adipose Tissue in Lambs

Source: S. L. Cooper, L. A. Sinclair, R. G. Wilkinson, K. G. Hallett, M. Enser, and J. D. Wood

Fifty Suffolk-crossbred wether lambs, with an initial live weight of 29 ± 2.1 kg, were allocated to one of five concentrate-based diets formulated to have a similar fatty acid content (60 g/kg DM), but containing either linseed oil (high in 18:3n−3); fish oil (high in 20:5n−3 and 22:6n−3); protected linseed and soybean (PLS; high in 18:2n−6 and 18:3n−3); fish oil and marine algae (fish/algae; high in 20:5n−3 and 22:6n−3); or PLS and algae (PLS/algae; high in 18:3n−3 and 22:6n−3). Lambs were slaughtered when they reached 40 kg. Growth performance and intake were similar (P > 0.35) among treatments. By contrast, gain:feed was higher (P < 0.05) in lambs fed the fish oil compared with the linseed oil or PLS/algae diets. Total fatty acid concentration (mg/100 g) in the neutral lipid of the longissimus muscle was not affected by treatment (P > 0.87) but was least (P < 0.05) in the phospholipid fraction in lambs fed the linseed oil diet. Lambs fed either diet containing marine algae contained the highest (P < 0.05) percentage of 22:6n−3 in the phospholipid (mean of 5.2%), 2.8-fold higher than in sheep fed the fish oil diet. In lambs fed the fish/algae diet, the percentage of 20:5n−3 was highest (P < 0.05), contributing some 8.7, 0.8, and 0.5% of the total fatty acids in the muscle phospholipid, neutral lipids, and adipose tissue, respectively. The percentage of 18:3n−3 in the phospholipid fraction of the LM was highest (P < 0.05) in lambs fed the linseed oil diet (6.9%), a value double that of sheep fed the PLS diet. By contrast, lambs fed the PLS diet had twice the percentage of 18:3n−3 in the muscle neutral lipids (3.8%) than those offered the linseed oil diet, and 5.5-fold greater than lambs fed the fish/algae treatment (P < 0.05), an effect that was similar in the adipose tissue. The percentage of 18:2n−6 was highest (P < 0.05) in lambs fed the PLS diet, where it contributed 33.7, 10.1, and 11.2% in the muscle phospholipid, neutral lipids, and adipose tissue, respectively. The highest (P < 0.05) muscle PUFA-to-saturated fatty acid (P:S) ratio was obtained in lambs fed the PLS diet (0.57), followed by the PLS/algae diet (0.46), and those fed the fish oil or linseed oil diets had the lowest ratios (0.19 and 0.26, respectively). The favorable P:S ratio of lambs fed the PLS/algae diet, in conjunction with the increased levels of 20:5n−3 and 22:6n−3, enhanced the nutritional qualities of lamb to more closely resemble what is recommended for the human diet.