Absorption of the n-3 eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids as ethyl esters and triglycerides by humans

Am J Clin Nutr. 1991 May;53(5):1185-90. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/53.5.1185.


Five normolipemic subjects received three test meals containing 28 g n-3 (omega-3) fatty acids provided as 1) triglycerides, 2) ethyl esters, and 3) ethyl esters + 12 g olive oil. The control meal contained olive oil. When equivalent amounts of fat were given, the increase in chylomicron and plasma triglycerides was similar; n-3 fatty acid contents were also similar after n-3 fatty acid intake as ethyl esters or triglycerides. Ethyl esters alone were well absorbed and produced similar n-3 fatty acid responses in plasma triglycerides and chylomicrons. At 24 h after the n-3 fatty acid-containing meals, the fatty acid plasma concentration of these acids was similar. This study showed that n-3 fatty acids in fish oil given as ethyl esters or triglycerides were equally well absorbed. Eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids were also equally absorbed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Absorption
  • Adult
  • Chylomicrons / blood
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fats / pharmacokinetics*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / pharmacokinetics*
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / pharmacokinetics*
  • Esters
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Triglycerides / administration & dosage
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Triglycerides / pharmacokinetics*


  • Chylomicrons
  • Dietary Fats
  • Esters
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Triglycerides
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid