Effect of Dietary Fish Oil Supplements on Levels of n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids, trans Acids and Conjugated Linoleic Acid in Ewe Milk

Massimo Mozzon1*, Natale G. Frega1, Baldassare Fronte2 and Massimo Tocchini2

Dipartimento di Biotecnologie Agrarie ed Ambientali, Università degli Studi di Ancona, via Brecce Bianche, I-60131 Ancona, Italy

2Dipartimento di Produzioni Animali, Università degli studi di Pisa, viale delle Piagge 2, I-56100 Pisa, Italy

Article history:

Received: January 6, 2002
Accepted: June 18, 2002

Key words:

ewe milk fat, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), fish oil, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), trans fatty acids


Three groups of ten lactating Sardinian ewes were used between 3rd and 6th month oflactation to determine the effects of supplementing diets with n-3 fatty acids on milk production and milk fat composition. The control group (A) was fed on a mixture of Gramineae hay with a pelleted alfalfa and concentrate; the other groups (B and C) were given the control ration supplemented with graded levels of fish oil. Milk content of nutritionally important fatty acids (n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, PUFA; trans acids and conjugated linoleic acid, CLA) was determined by gas chromatography. Unlike cow milk, milk of normally fed ewes contained detectable quantities of n-3 PUFA and higher amounts of CLA. The supplementation with fish oil resulted in an increased milk fat levels of n-3 PUFA, CLA and trans isomers. There was a positive correlation (R2 = 0.964) between the trans and n-3 fatty acid content in ewe milk, and a close positive correlation (R2 = 0.996) between CLA and trans monoenoic fatty acid contents. PUFA supplementation resulted in a slightly, but not statistically significative, decrease of milk fat percentage. On the contrary, dietary fish oil markedly affected milk production: ewes fed on the n-3 supplemented diet produced more milk than the ewes fed with the control diet. 


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