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Table 2 Summary of studies in periparturient dairy cows investigating the effects of supplemental essential fatty acids on liver, immune system, inflammation, and reproductive performance

From: Role of nutraceuticals during the transition period of dairy cows: a review

Nutraceuticala Form Doseb Period Main outcomesc Reference
EPA (C20:5n-3) and DHA (C22:6n-3) Fish oil 1.5 (22 to 250 g oil/d) − 49 to 160 DFC6 Lower production of TNF by neutrophils stimulated with LPS as compared with those from cows fed palm oil [47, 48]
n-3 PUFA
(C20:5n-3; C22:6n-3)
    Decreased liver ketogenesis; Activates PPARG reducing the production of TNF by leukocytes and partially reversing the insulin resistance caused by this cytokine, thus increasing the glucose availability and the energy balance [49, 50]
CLA (cis-9,trans-11 and trans-10,cis-12 C18:2n-6) CLA 50–100 g/d − 21 to 252 DFC Inhibited the LPS-induced inflammatory activity in macrophages; Increased albumin and cholesterol concentrations in early lactation [51, 52]
n-6 PUFA (C18:2 cis-9, trans-11 and trans-10,cis-12)     Increased secretion of VLDL and apolipoprotein B100, decreasing cellular accumulation of triglycerides from palmitic acid, increasing DMI, reducing NEB and lipomobilization (lower NEFA and BHB levels in blood) [53, 54]
    Mitigation of the oxidative stress status
Protection of paraoxonase against oxidative inactivation
[53, 54]
ALA (C18:3n-3) Whole flaxseed    Higher conception rate at the first artificial insemination [55]
    No embryo mortality with flaxseed compared to 15% with Megalac or 8% with soybean [56,57,58]
Extruded flaxseed    Higher number of small follicles compared to cows fed extruded soybeans [59]
  4–5 − 21 to 100 DFC Longer interval between PGF2α injection to behavioral estrous and estradiol peak. Longer duration of behavioral estrous. Fewer days from the first artificial insemination to conception and open day [21]
Flaxseed oil    Higher cleavage rate as compared with cows supplemented with saturated fatty acids [60, 61]
Encapsulated flaxseed oil 3.8 (242.2 to 700 g oil/d) 114 DFC to ovum pick up Higher number of 2 to 7 mm follicles compared to cows fed sunflower oil or saturated fatty acids +EI: Lower concentration of estradiol and estradiol: progesterone ratio in estradiol active follicles [31, 62]
EPA (C20:5n-3) and DHA (C22:6n-3) Algae product containing 10% DHA 100 g/d 27 to147 DFC Increased resumption of estrous at 58 DFC and increased pregnancy per artificial insemination (Reduced days to pregnancy by 22 d compared with control) [63]
Fish oil 200 to 500 g/d − 21 to 21 DFC Decreased pregnancy losses and larger ovulatory follicles; Higher cleavage rate as compared with cows supplemented with saturated fatty acids [61, 64]
  1. a ALA Alpha-linolenic acid, EPA Eicosapentaenoic acid, DHA Docosahexaenoic acid, TNF tumor necrosis factor – alpha, LPS lipopolysaccharide, PPARG peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma, VLDL very low-density lipoprotein, DMI dry matter intake, NEB negative energy balance, NEFA non-esterified fatty acids, BHB beta-hydroxybutyrate, PGF2α prostaglandin F2α
  2. b Expressed as % of dry matter whenever not differently indicated
  3. c Days from calving