Food and Behaviour Research

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The retina is more susceptible than the brain and the liver to the incorporation of trans isomers of DHA in rats consuming trans isomers of alpha-linolenic acid

Acar N, Bonhomme B, Joffre C, Bron AM, Creuzot-Garcher C, Bretillon L, Doly M, Chardigny JM. (2006) Reprod Nutr Dev.  46(5): 515-25. Epub 2006 Sep 23. 

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Trans polyunsaturated fatty acids are formed during heat treatments of vegetable oils from polyunsaturated fatty acids containing cis double bonds. After dietary intake, they are distributed in the body and are incorporated into nervous tissues including the retina.

Since nervous tissues are known to be rich in n-3 fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), we studied the ability of the retina and the brain to incorporate trans isomers of DHA formed in vivo from the dietary precursor trans alpha-linolenic acid.

Wistar rats were fed with trans isomers of alpha-linolenic acid for 21 months. A linear incorporation of trans DHA and a decrease in cis DHA was observed in the retina, whereas no major changes were observed in the brain.

In parallel to the modifications in retinal cis and trans DHA levels, the retinal functionality evaluated by the electroretinogram showed defects in animals that consumed trans alpha-linolenic acid.

These results suggest that the mechanisms leading to the incorporation of cis and trans fatty acids are quite different in the retina when compared to the brain and the liver, the retina being more susceptible to changes in the dietary lipid contribution.