The sources, synthesis and biological actions of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in red meat: An overview

Eric N. Ponnampalam, Andrew Sinclair, Benjamin Holman

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)
    23 Downloads (Pure)


    The maximisation of available resources for animal production, food security and maintenance of human–animal wellbeing is important for an economically viable, resilient and sustainable future. Pasture and forage diets are common sources of short chain omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), while grain-based and feedlot diets are common sources of short chain omega-6 (n-6) PUFA. Animals deposit n-3 and n-6 PUFA as a result of their direct consumption, as feeds or by synthesis of longer chain PUFA from short chain FA precursors in the body via desaturation and elongation processes. Research conducted over the last three decades has determined that the consumption of n-3 PUFA can improve the health and wellbeing of humans through its biological, biochemical, pathological and pharmacological effects. n-6 PUFA also play an important role in human health, but when consumed at high levels, are potentially harmful. Research shows that current consumption of n-6 PUFA by the human population is high due to their meal choices and the supplied food types. If consumption of n-3 PUFA from land- and marine-based foods improves human health, it is likely that these same food types can improve the health and wellbeing of livestock (farm animals) by likewise enhancing the levels of the n-3 PUFA in their circulatory and tissue systems. Modern agricultural systems and advanced technologies have fostered large scale animal and crop production systems. These allow for the utilisation of plant concentrate-based diets to increase the rate of animal growth, often based on economics, and these diets are believed to contribute to unfavourable FA intakes. Knowledge of the risks associated with consuming foods that have greater concentration of n-6 PUFA may lead to health-conscious consumers avoiding or minimising their intake of animal- and plant-based foods. For this reason, there is scope to produce food from plant and animal origins that contain lesser amounts of n-6 PUFA and greater amounts of n-3 PUFA, the outcome of which could improve both animal and human health, wellbeing and resilience to disease
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number1358
    Pages (from-to)1-20
    Number of pages20
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2021


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