Young and healthy broilers are susceptible to sudden death syndrome (SDS), which is caused by cardiac arrhythmia. The long-chain 'fish-type' omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have cardioprotective anti-arrhythmic effects in animals and humans. Raising the cardiac level of EPA and DHA in chickens may protect against SDS. However, fish oil as a source of EPA and DHA in poultry feed is costly and introduces undesirable properties to the meat. Whilst omega-3 vegetable oils, such as canola oil, are cheaper and do not have a strong odour, they contain the short-chain fatty acid α-linolenic acid, which requires conversion to EPA and DHA after ingestion. We investigated the capacity for dietary canola oil to elevate cardiac EPA and DHA in broilers. Broilers were fed with diets containing either 3% canola oil or tallow, which is currently used in some commercial feeds. Upon completion of a 42 day feeding trial, canola oil significantly increased EPA and EPA + DHA in heart phospholipids relative to tallow. The elevation in cardiac EPA and EPA + DHA may provide anti-arrhythmic effects and protect against SDS in poultry. This proof-of-concept biochemical study suggests that a larger study to assess the clinical outcome of SDS may be warranted.
- Sudden death syndrome
- Vegetable oil