Impact of genotype on EPA and DHA status and responsiveness to increased intakes

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At a population level, cardioprotective and cognitive actions of the fish oil (FO) derived long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC n-3 PUFAs) eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have been extensively demonstrated. In addition to dietary intake, which is limited for many individuals, EPA and DHA status is dependent on the efficiency of their biosynthesis from α-linolenic acid. Gender and common gene variants have been identified as influencing the rate-limiting desaturase and elongase enzymes. Response to a particular intake or status is also highly heterogeneous and likely influenced by genetic variants which impacts on EPA and DHA metabolism and tissue partitioning, transcription factor activity, or physiological end-point regulation.
Here available literature relating genotype to tissue LC n-3 PUFA status and response to FO intervention is considered. It is concluded that the available evidence is relatively limited, with much of the variability unexplained, though APOE and FADS genotypes are emerging as being important. Although numerous genotype × LC-n3 PUFA × phenotype associations have been described, few have been confirmed in independent studies.
A more comprehensive understanding of the genetic, physiological and behavioural modulators of EPA and DHA status and response to intervention is needed to allow refinement of current dietary LC n-3 PUFA recommendations and stratification of advice to ‘vulnerable’ and responsive subgroups.
Original languageEnglish
Article number123
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2016


  • Eicosapentaenoic acid
  • EPA
  • Docosahexaenoic acid
  • DHA
  • long chain n-3 PUFA
  • genotype
  • APOE
  • FADS

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