Dietary Transformation of Lipid in the Rumen Microbial Ecosystem

  • Kim, Eun Joong (Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University) ;
  • Huws, Sharon A. (Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University) ;
  • Lee, Michael R.F. (Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University) ;
  • Scollan, Nigel D. (Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University)
  • Published : 2009.09.01


Dietary lipids are rapidly hydrolysed and biohydrogenated in the rumen resulting in meat and milk characterised by a high content of saturated fatty acids and low polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), which contributes to increases in the risk of diseases including cardiovascular disease and cancer. There has been considerable interest in altering the fatty acid composition of ruminant products with the overall aim of improving the long-term health of consumers. Metabolism of dietary lipids in the rumen (lipolysis and biohydrogenation) is a major critical control point in determining the fatty acid composition of ruminant lipids. Our understanding of the pathways involved and metabolically important intermediates has advanced considerably in recent years. Advances in molecular microbial technology based on 16S rRNA genes have helped to further advance our knowledge of the key organisms responsible for ruminal lipid transformation. Attention has focused on ruminal biohydrogenation of lipids in forages, plant oils and oilseeds, fish oil, marine algae and fat supplements as important dietary strategies which impact on fatty acid composition of ruminant lipids. Forages, such as grass and legumes, are rich in omega-3 PUFA and are a useful natural strategy in improving nutritional value of ruminant products. Specifically this review targets two key areas in relation to forages: i) what is the fate of the lipid-rich plant chloroplast in the rumen and ii) the role of the enzyme polyphenol oxidase in red clover as a natural plant-based protection mechanism of dietary lipids in the rumen. The review also addresses major pathways and micro-organisms involved in lipolysis and biohydrogenation.


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