The effects of dietary sardine oil rich in eicosapentaenoic acid, C20:5 (EPA), on erythrocyte membrane fluidity and membrane and plasma lipids were investigated in diabetic and control subjects. Before consumption of this oil, the levels of erythrocyte membrane fluidity were lower in the diabetic subjects, as noted in our previous work (Diabetes 1983; 32:585–91). Decreased membrane polyunsaturated fatty acid contents were evident. Daily consumption of 2700 mg of sardine oil for 8 wk increased erythrocyte membrane fluidity, as determined by electron spin resonance using the 12- or 16- stearic acid label. This increase was seen after 4 wk, and the level remained elevated for 8 wk. Membrane EPA of phospholipid acyl-chains significantly increased after 4 wk and was even more apparent after 8 wk. Membrane-free cholesterol to phospholipid molar ratios significantly decreased after 8 wk. Both the diabetic and normal subjects responded to the sardine oil in the same way. After feeding with sardine oil, there no longer were differences in erythrocyte membrane fluidity between, the normal and diabetic subjects. We propose that improvement in membrane fluidity may contribute to the amelioration of altered cell membrane functions in diabetic patients.

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