Running Speed in Mammals Increases With Muscle n-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Content

PLoS One. 2006 Dec 20;1(1):e65. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0000065.

Abstract

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are important dietary components that mammals cannot synthesize de novo. Beneficial effects of PUFAs, in particular of the n-3 class, for certain aspects of animal and human health (e.g., cardiovascular function) are well known. Several observations suggest, however, that PUFAs may also affect the performance of skeletal muscles in vertebrates. For instance, it has been shown that experimentally n-6 PUFA-enriched diets increase the maximum swimming speed in salmon. Also, we recently found that the proportion of PUFAs in the muscle phospholipids of an extremely fast runner, the brown hare (Lepus europaeus), are very high compared to other mammals. Therefore, we predicted that locomotor performance, namely running speed, should be associated with differences in muscle fatty acid profiles. To test this hypothesis, we determined phospholipid fatty acid profiles in skeletal muscles of 36 mammalian species ranging from shrews to elephants. We found that there is indeed a general positive, surprisingly strong relation between the n-6 PUFAs content in muscle phospholipids and maximum running speed of mammals. This finding suggests that muscle fatty acid composition directly affects a highly fitness-relevant trait, which may be decisive for the ability of animals to escape from predators or catch prey.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6 / analysis
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6 / metabolism*
  • Hares / physiology
  • Humans
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Mammals / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Phospholipids / chemistry
  • Phospholipids / metabolism
  • Phylogeny
  • Running / physiology

Substances

  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6
  • Phospholipids