European Journal of Clinical Nutrition
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March 2002, Volume 56, Number 3, Pages 181-191
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Review Article
Fatty acid analysis of wild ruminant tissues: evolutionary implications for reducing diet-related chronic disease
L Cordain1, B A Watkins2, G L Florant1, M Kelher3, L Rogers2 and Y Li2

1Department of Health and Exercise Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

2Department of Food Science, Lipid Chemistry and Molecular Biology Laboratory, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA

3Department of Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

Correspondence to: L Cordain, Department of Health and Exercise Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA. E-mail: cordain@cahs.colostate.edu

Guarantor: L Cordain.

Contributors: L Cordain, B Watkins, G Florant, M Kelher, L Rogers and Y Li.

Abstract

Hypotheses: Consumption of wild ruminant fat represented the primary lipid source for pre-agricultural humans. Hence, the lipid composition of these animals' tissues may provide insight into dietary requirements that offer protection from chronic disease in modern humans.

Method: We examined the lipid composition of muscle, brain, marrow and subcutaneous adipose tissue (AT) from 17 elk (Cervus elaphus), 15 mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), and 17 antelope (Antilicapra americana) and contrasted them to wild African ruminants and pasture and grain-fed cattle.

Results: Muscle fatty acid (FA) was similar among North American species with polyunsaturated fatty acids/saturated fatty acids (P/S) values from 0.80 to 1.09 and n-6/n-3 FA from 2.32 to 2.60. Marrow FA was similar among North American species with high levels (59.3-67.0%) of monounsaturated FA; a low P/S (0.24-0.33), and an n-6/n-3 of 2.24-2.88. Brain had the lowest n-6/n-3 (1.20-1.29), the highest concentration of 22:6 n-3 (elk, 8.90%; deer, 9.62%; antelope, 9.25%) and a P/S of 0.69. AT had the lowest P/S (0.05-0.09) and n-6/n-3 (2.25-2.96). Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) isomers were found in marrow of antelope (1.5%), elk (1.0%) and deer (1.0%), in AT (deer, 0.3%; antelope, 0.3%) in muscle (antelope, 0.4%; elk, trace), but not in brain.

Conclusions: Literature comparisons showed tissue lipids of North American and African ruminants were similar to pasture-fed cattle, but dissimilar to grain-fed cattle. The lipid composition of wild ruminant tissues may serve as a model for dietary lipid recommendations in treating and preventing chronic disease.

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2002) 56, 181-191. DOI: 10.1038/sj/ejcn/1601307

Keywords

fatty acids; CLA; wild game tissues; evolution; diet

Received September 2000; revised June 2001; accepted July 2001
March 2002, Volume 56, Number 3, Pages 181-191
Table of contents    Previous  Abstract  Next   Full text  PDF