Effects of season and reproductive state on lipid intake and fatty acid composition of gastrointestinal tract contents in the European hare
Four groups of eight New Zealand hybrid rabbits were fattened with ad libitum access to the following pelleted experimental diets: ryegrass meal or alfalfa meal fed either alone or with oats meal in a ratio of 1:1. After 25 weeks they were slaughtered and dissected. Fatty acid (FA) profiles of caecotrophs (re-ingested fermentation products of the caecum), perirenal adipose tissue and intramuscular fat in the Musculus quadriceps were determined. With high proportions of branched-chain FA (BFA) and trans FA, and increased proportions of saturated FA relative to the diets, the caecotroph FA profile showed a clear fingerprint of anaerobe microbial lipid metabolism including biohydrogenation. By contrast, the FA profiles of adipose and lean tissue comprised high proportions of polyunsaturated FA (PUFA), whilst BFA and trans FA occurred in much lower proportions compared to the caecotrophs. Thus, coprophagy did not substantially modify the FA composition of the tissues investigated. Use of forage-only diets, compared to the oats supplemented diets, led to extraordinary high proportions of n-3 PUFA (including 18:3 and long-chain n-3) in the fat of adipose (21.3 vs. 6.7%) and lean tissue (15.4 vs. 5.7%). The forage type diet (grass vs. alfalfa) had smaller effects on the FA profiles. Indications of diet effects on endogenous desaturation, chain elongation and differential distribution of functional FA between the two tissues investigated were found.