Effect of dietary omega-3 fatty acids on red blood cell lipid composition and plasma metabolites in the cockatiel, Nymphicus hollandicus

C. R. Heinze, Michelle Hawkins, L. A. Gillies, X. Wu, R. L. Walzem, J. B. German, K. C. Klasing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Although dietary n-3 fatty acids have been extensively studied in poultry, they have not yet been prospectively investigated in psittacines, despite potential benefits for preventing and treating atherosclerosis, osteoarthritis, and other chronic disease processes. The objectives of this study were to investigate the incorporation of dietary n-3 fatty acids into red blood cells (RBC) and to determine the effects of supplementation of psittacine diets with fish or flax oil on plasma lipids and lipoproteins in the cockatiel. Adult cockatiels were fed a custom-formulated diet containing either 4% (wt/wt, as-fed) beef tallow (CON), 3% fish oil + 1% tallow (FSH), or 3.5% flax oil + 0.5% tallow (FLX; n = 20 per diet group). Baseline measurements were obtained for RBC fatty acid composition, triacylglycerides (TAG), and cholesterol. After 8 to 13 wk on the study diets, plasma chemistry profiles, lipoprotein density profiles, and RBC fatty acid composition were determined. At 8 wk, total plasma cholesterol was least in FSH birds (P < 0.05) and TAG concentrations were less in FSH birds than FLX birds (P < 0.05). Total n-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid, docosapentaenoic acid, and eicosapentaenoic acid were markedly greater in the RBC of FSH birds than FLX or CON birds (P < 0.05). Alpha linolenic acid was greatest in FLX (P < 0.05). Initial and final BW, and nonlipid plasma chemistry values did not differ among diet groups. No adverse effects of dietary supplementation of cockatiels with 3.5% flax oil or 3% fish oil were observed during the 13-wk feeding period. Although fish and flax oils provided similar total n-3 PUFA to the diets, fish oil caused greater reductions in cholesterol and TAG, and greater total RBC n-3 incorporation. Thus, dietary modify cation of psittacine diets with long chain n-3 PUFA from fish oil appears safe and may be beneficial to these long-lived companion birds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3068-3079
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Cholesterol
  • Fish oil
  • Flax oil
  • Lipoproteins
  • Psittacine
  • Triglycerides

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Food Science
  • Genetics


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