Effect of dietary fats on the fatty acid compositions of serum and immune tissues in chickens

Poult Sci. 1991 May;70(5):1213-22. doi: 10.3382/ps.0701213.


The purpose of the present study was to measure the effect of dietary fat source on the fatty acid composition of immune cells in chickens. One-day-old female chicks were fed corn and soybean meal-based diets containing 7% of either lard, corn oil, canola oil, linseed oil (LO), or menhaden fish oil (FO). After being fed experimental diets for 3 to 4 wk, samples of serum, thymus glands, bursa of Fabricius glands, and splenocytes were collected. All samples were frozen and stored at -80 C until lipid analysis. Results indicate that the fatty acid composition of the sera and immune tissues of chickens reflected the fat in the diet. The relative content of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids varied considerably among immune tissues, with, from greatest to least, spleen, bursa, and thymus. The young chick demonstrated a substantial capacity to elongate and desaturate linoleic (C18:2n-6) and alpha-linolenic acids (C18:3n-3). Feeding chicks fats rich in n-3 fatty acids (e.g., LO or FO) decreased significantly (P less than .05) the level of arachidonic acid (C20:4n-6) present in the serum and immune tissues by 50 to 75%. The levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, C20:5n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, C20:6n-3) were substantially increased (P less than .05) by FO and LO feeding. However, LO, which is rich in C18:3n-3, was generally only one-half to one-quarter as effective as FO in elevating EPA and DHA levels in immune tissues. The implications for these changes in serum and immune tissue fatty acid profiles are discussed briefly.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bursa of Fabricius / chemistry
  • Bursa of Fabricius / growth & development
  • Chickens / blood
  • Chickens / immunology
  • Chickens / metabolism*
  • Dietary Fats / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids / analysis*
  • Fatty Acids / blood
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Lymphoid Tissue / chemistry*
  • Lymphoid Tissue / growth & development
  • Organ Size
  • Spleen / chemistry
  • Spleen / growth & development
  • Thymus Gland / chemistry
  • Thymus Gland / growth & development


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated