Efficacy of dietary arachidonic acid provided as triglyceride or phospholipid as substrates for brain arachidonic acid accretion in baboon neonates

Pediatr Res. 2002 Mar;51(3):265-72. doi: 10.1203/00006450-200203000-00002.


Arachidonic acid (AA) is a long-chain polyunsaturate (LCP) present in human breast milk as both triglyceride (TG) and as phospholipid (PL). There has been little attention to the metabolic consequences of lipid form of AA in infant formulas. Our objective was to investigate the efficacy of dietary TG and PL as carriers of AA for accretion in the brain and associated organs of term baboon neonates consuming a formula with LCP composition typical of human milk. TG and phosphatidylcholine (PC) with [U-(13)C]-AA in the sn-2 position and with unlabeled 16:0 in the remaining positions (TG-AA* or PL-AA*, respectively) were used as tracers to study the tissue AA* incorporation. Baboon neonates received a single oral dose of either TG-AA* (n = 3) or PL-AA* (n = 4) at 18-19 d of life. Tissues were obtained 10 d later (28-29 d of life) and isotopic enrichment was measured. In the brain, 4.5% of the PL-AA* dose and 2.1% of the TG-AA* dose were recovered as brain AA*, respectively, indicating that PL was about 2.1-fold more effective than TG as a substrate for brain AA accretion. Preferential incorporation of PL-derived AA* over TG source of AA* was also observed in the liver, lung, plasma, and erythrocytes. Because of the quantitative predominance of TG-AA in formula, total brain AA accretion, expressed as absolute weight, was 5.0-fold greater from TG-AA than from PL-AA. We estimate that about half of postnatal brain AA accretion is derived from dietary preformed AA in term baboon neonates consuming a formula with lipid composition similar to that of human milk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn / metabolism*
  • Arachidonic Acid / pharmacokinetics*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • Organ Size
  • Papio
  • Phosphatidylcholines / pharmacokinetics*
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Retina / metabolism
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Triglycerides / pharmacokinetics*


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Triglycerides
  • Arachidonic Acid