Fatty acids from GM oilseed crops could replace fish oil
Oil from genetically modified (GM) oilseed crops could replace fish oil as a primary source of the beneficial Omega 3 fatty acid EPA – according to new research from the University of East Anglia in collaboration with Rothamsted Research and the University of Stirling.
BBSRC-funded researchers at the University of East Anglia studied the effect in mice of consuming feed enriched with oil from glasshouse grown genetically engineered Camelina sativa, developed at the Rothamsted Research.
The goal of the research was to discover whether mammals (using mice as a model) can absorb and accumulate EPA from this novel source of omega-3s.
The team examined levels of EPA in various organs in the body such as the liver, as well as its effect on the expression of genes key for regulating the way the body processes fats. The results show that the benefits were similar to those derived from fish oils.
Lead researcher Prof Anne-Marie Minihane, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “The long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid EPA is beneficial for cardiovascular and cognitive health, as well as for foetal development in pregnancy.
“The recommended minimum dietary intake can be achieved by eating one to two portions of oily fish per week.
“But for everyone in the world to achieve their minimum dietary intake, you would need around 1.3 million metric tonnes of EPA per year. Fish currently provide around 40 per cent of the required amount – so there is a large deficit between supply and demand.
“There is a great need to identify alternative and sustainable sources of these beneficial fatty acids.
“We wanted to test whether oil from genetically modified plants could be used as a substitute. This first study indicates that mammals can efficiently accumulate the key health-beneficial omega-3 fatty acid EPA.”
The research team studied mice, which had been fed with EPA oil from genetically engineered Camelina sativa, commonly known as false flax, but actually a member of the Brassicaceae family. Crops were grown in glasshouses at Rothamsted Research.
The researchers looked to see whether consuming oil from the engineered plants was as beneficial as EPA-rich fish oil. They did this by testing tissue concentrations of fatty acids in liver, muscle and brain tissue, along with the expression of genes involved in regulating EPA status and its physiological benefits.
Prof Minihane said: “The mice were fed with a control diet similar to a Westernised human diet, along with supplements of EPA from genetically engineered Camelina sativa or fish oil, for ten weeks – enough time for any beneficial results to be seen.
“We found that the genetically engineered oil is a bioavailable source of EPA, with comparable benefits for the liver to eating oily fish.”
The research was funded by BBSRC as part of an ongoing research programme to examine the sources and sustainability of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as their impact on health and risk of chronic disease. The novel Camelina oil used was produced as part of the BBSRC-funded Designing Seeds Institute Strategic Programme Grant to Rothamsted Research.
The study was reviewed and approved by the Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB) and was conducted within the provisions of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) act 1986.
Notes to editors
Publication: Tejera et al. 2016. A transgenic Camelina sativa seed oil effectively replaces fish oil as a dietary source of EPA in mice. The Journal of Nutrition.
For more information or to arrange an interview with Prof Anne Marie Minihane, please contact Lisa Horton in the UEA press office on +44 1603 592764 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The University of Stirling contact is Professor Douglas Tocher and the Rothamsted Research contact is Johnathan Napier.
About University of East Anglia
The University of East Anglia (UEA) is among the top 1% of universities globally (Times Higher Education World Rankings 2014-15) and placed 10th in the UK for the quality of its research output (Research Excellence Framework 2014). Also known for its outstanding student experience, it has achieved a Top 10 rating in the National Student Survey every year since the survey began. UEA is a leading member of the Norwich Research Park - one of Europe’s largest concentrations of researchers in the fields of environment, health and plant science. The city of Norwich boasts more highly cited scientists than any UK city outside London, Oxford and Cambridge. www.uea.ac.uk
About Rothamsted Research
We are the longest running agricultural research station in the world, providing cutting-edge science and innovation for nearly 170 years. Our mission is to deliver the knowledge and new practices to increase crop productivity and quality and to develop environmentally sustainable solutions for food and energy production. Our strength lies in the integrated, multidisciplinary approach to research in plant, insect and soil science. Rothamsted Research is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). In 2014-2015 Rothamsted Research received a total of £35.5M from BBSRC.
Tags: animal health crops University of East Anglia food genetics human health Rothamsted Research press release