Single measurement of serum phospholipid fatty acid as a biomarker of specific fatty acid intake in middle-aged Japanese men

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Objective: To assess the utility of serum phospholipid fatty acid (FA) levels as a biochemical indicator of habitual dietary fatty acid intake in Japanese, whose diet is characterized by low fat intake and high intake of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) of marine origin.

Subjects and methods: Eighty-seven male volunteers from four public health center districts that were part of the Japan Public Health Center based Prospective Study (JPHC Study) cohort I, were included in this study. Habitual intake of fatty acid was obtained by 7 day weighed dietary records four times (in one area only twice) in 1994–1995. Blood was collected twice, in February and August of the same year, and the composition of FA in serum phospholipid was analyzed by gas chromatography. The correlation coefficient between serum phospholipid FA levels and fatty acid intake was calculated.

Results: High correlations were observed for eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are marine origin n-3 PUFA (r=0.75, 0.49, 0.50, respectively). No significant correlation was observed for saturated fatty acid (SFA), although the monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA), palmitoleic acid and oleic acid intake were moderately correlated (r=0.22, 0.35, respectively). The correlations for EPA, DPA and DHA were similar in both samples collected in February and August.

Conclusions: These data suggest that in populations with a high and stable over time intake of n-3 PUFA of marine origin, a single measurement of serum phospholipids reflects the ranking of habitual intake of marine origin n-3 PUFA.

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2001) 55, 643–650


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The authors express their appreciation to the local staff in each study area, especially to the following dietitians for their painstaking efforts in conducting the dietary survey: Ms Yuko Hatakeyama, Mayumi Morimoto, Masako Makino, Manami Nishizawa, Misako Tawada, Noriko Kamiunten and Satoko Takamori. We also thank Drs Youji litoi, Yasuhiko Iwase, and Tosei Takahashi for data management and Dr Seiichiro Yamamoto for statistical advice. This work was supported by grants-in-aid for cancer research and for the Second Term Comprehensive Ten-Year Strategy for Cancer Control from the Ministry of Health and Welfare of Japan and for grants-in aid for scientific research from the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture of Japan. MK was awarded a Research Resident Fellowship from the Foundation for Promotion of Cancer Research in Japan.

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Correspondence to S Tsugane.

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  • n-3 fatty acids
  • biomarkers
  • serum phospholipid
  • diet records
  • Japan

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