1. Male CD-1 white mice, 18-20 g body-weight, were given semi-purified diets containing 100 g menhaden oil (MO) or hydrogenated coconut oil (HCO) /kg for 23 d. Mice were killed on days 0, 3, 5, 7, 14, 23. After 23 d of MO supplementation the remaining mice were switched to the HCO diet for an additional 10 d.
2. The progressive change(s) in the polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) composition of cardiac and brain phospholipid classes were followed during the MO supplementation and depletion periods.
3. The content of fatty acids 20:5n-3, 22:5n-3 and 22:6n-3 increased immediately following ingestion of the MO diet and continued to increase at a steady rate in both heart and brain phospholipid classes.
4. In general, the period required to reach steady-state was 1 week for n-3 PUFA and 18:2n-6, and 2 weeks for 20:4n-6.
5. Cessation of MO consumption for 10 d resulted in marked decreases in the content of n-3 PUFA and increases in n-6 PUFA in cardiac phospholipids in particular. Brain phospholipids were less responsive.
6. The results suggest that dietary fish oil must be consumed for at least 1 week before maximum changes in PUFA composition are observed, and fish oil ingestion must be continuous to maintain elevated n-3 PUFA levels in heart and brain phospholipids.