The effects of dietary N-3 and antioxidant supplementation on erythrocyte membrane fatty acid composition and fluidity in exercising horses

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Reasons for performing study:

Fatty acid supplementation could modulate erythrocyte membrane fluidity in horses at rest and during exercise, but information is lacking on the effect of exercise.


To assess the effect of exercise with, and without, an oral antioxidant supplementation enriched with n-3 fatty acids on erythrocyte membrane fluidity (EMF) and fatty acid composition in eventing horses.


Twelve healthy and regularly trained horses were divided randomly into 2 groups:group Sreceived an oral antioxidant cocktail enriched in n-3 fatty acid (alphatocopherol, eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA] and docosahexaenoic acid [DHA]) whereasgroup Pwas placebotreated. At the end of 4 weeks, all horses performed a standardised exercise test (ET) under field conditions. Venous blood was sampled before starting treatment (TO), immediately before (T1) as well as 15 min (T2) and 24 h (T3) after ET. Spin labelled (16-DOXYL-stearic acid) red blood cell membranes were characterised using the relaxation correlation time (Tc in inverse proportion to EMF). Fatty acid composition (%) of the membrane was determined by gas-liquid chromatography.


Supplementation did not induce changes in EMF (T1 vs. T0) but significant changes in membrane composition were observed and there were increases in n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid PUFA, n-3/n-6 ratio, and total n-3 fatty acids. Exercise (T2 vs. T1) induced a significant decrease of EMF ingroup P(Tc: +19%, P<0.05) and nonsignificant decrease ingroup S(Tc: +5%), whereas membrane fatty acid composition did not change in either group. During the recovery period (T3 vs. T2), EMF decreased significantly ingroup S(Tc: +29%, P<0.05) and nonsignificantly ingroup P(Tc: +18%) without any significant changes in fatty acid composition.

Conclusion and potential relevance:

An enriched oral antioxidant supplementation induced changes in membrane composition, which modulated the decrease in EMF induced by exercise. Long chain n-3 fatty acid supplementation might therefore be beneficial.

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