The Open Nutrition Journal

ISSN: 1874-2882 ― Volume 12, 2018

A Rapid and Simple Method for Fatty Acid Profiling and Determination of ω-3 Index in Red Blood Cells

Olufunmilola Akinyemi1, Geza Bruckner1, John Johnson3, Terry A. Lennie2, David Hildebrand3, *
1 Department of Clinical Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA
2 College of Nursing, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA
3 Department of Plant & Soil Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA


Fatty acid profiling has become a very useful and effective tool in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of several diseases with cardiovascular disease being particularly important. In order to arrive at accurate conclusions that would help promote the health of individuals plagued by such diseases, not only excellent laboratory methods are required, but also very important monitoring responses to treatment. Improvements in methods of fatty acid profiling in biological systems regarding safety of extraction, precision and time for analysis are valuable. The ω-3 index (a measure of the amount of eicosapentaenoic acid, EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid, DHA, in Red Blood Cell membranes expressed as the percent of total fatty acids) is of growing interest because it has been reported to provide prognostic information regarding the risk for heart diseases. Sodium methoxide has been widely used for the determination of ω -3 fatty acids in food samples. This study demonstrates that sodium methoxide can be used effectively in RBC fatty acid profiling and determination of the ω-3 index. Briefly, the fatty acid profiles and ω-3 index of red blood cell samples were analyzed and results compared using three different methods: a two- step extraction and methylation method described by Hara and Radin, a single step extraction and methylation method described by Harris et al. and the sodium methoxide method.

Our results revealed that there were no statistically significant differences (p<0.05) between the three methods for the representative fatty acids, [16:0 (p = 0.10), 18:0 (p=0.40), 18:1(ω9) (p = 0.29), 18:2(ω6) (p = 0.95), 18:3(ω3) (p = 0.50), 20:5(ω3) (p=0.56), 22:6(ω3) (p = 0.06)] and ω-3 index (p = 0.11) except for 20:4(ω6), (P = 0.02). In conclusion, we show that sodium methoxide can be used effectively in a one-step extraction and methylation procedure for high throughput analysis of fatty acids in red blood cell membranes. It is rapid (10 minute extraction and methylation), simple, safer than and as accurate as other commonly reported methods.

Keywords: Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), Omega-3 index, Sodium methoxide, Erythrocytes.

Article Information

Identifiers and Pagination:

Year: 2017
Volume: 11
First Page: 17
Last Page: 26
Publisher Id: TONUTRJ-11-17
DOI: 10.2174/1874288201711010017

Article History:

Received Date: 15/07/2016
Revision Received Date: 23/12/2016
Acceptance Date: 25/12/2016
Electronic publication date: 31/01/2017
Collection year: 2017

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© Akinyemi et al.; Licensee Bentham Open

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 International Public License (CC BY-NC 4.0) (, which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Plant & Soil Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 403 PSB, USA; Tel: 859/218-0760, Fax: 8592577848; E-mail:


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