Fancy having your beef dinner confer the same nutritional benefits as your fish dinner?

Well this could soon be a reality thanks to a study carried out by nine Chinese scientists which appraised the fact that the amount of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in livestock meat, which most of us consume on a daily basis, is relatively low. And yet these Omega-3 acids are very beneficial to human health.

The scientists therefore set out to discover how to raise Omega-3 levels in livestock meat. In the course of their research they discovered a gene that converts Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids into Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid. A plasmid was then constructed into which the gene was placed. This plamid was then inserted into fourteen transgenic calves by somatic cell nuclear transfer.

The scientists found that the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 in the transgenic calves decreased from 5.33: 1 to 0.95: 1, compared with negative controls.

They said their results demonstrated that this gene can be functionally expressed in the beef cattle to convert Omega-6 to Omega-3.

"We have provided the first evidence that it is possible to create a new breed of cattle with higher nutritional value in terms of their fatty acid composition," said author Linsen Zan from the College of Animal Science and Technology at Northwest A&F University and the National Beef Cattle Improvement Centre, both in Yangling, China.

Omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA, have been scientifically proven to lower elevated triglyceride levels which lead to a risk of heart disease, help curb stiffness and joint pain for those suffering with rheumatoid arthritis and help protect against Alzheimer's disease.

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