In the last years, there has been an increasing interest in evaluating possible relations between fatty acid (FA) patterns and the risk for chronic diseases. Due to the long life span (120 days) of red blood cells (RBCs), their FA profile reflects a longer term dietary intake and was recently suggested to be used as an appropriate biomarker to investigate correlations between FA metabolism and diseases. Therefore, the aim of this work was to develop and validate a simple and fast methodology for the quantification of a broad range of FAs in RBCs using gas chromatography with flame ionization detector, as a more common and affordable equipment suitable for biomedical and nutritional studies including a large number of samples. For this purpose, different sample preparation protocols were tested and compared, including a classic two-step method (Folch method) with modifications and different one-step methods, in which lipid extraction and derivatization were performed simultaneously. For the one-step methods, different methylation periods and the inclusion of a saponification reaction were evaluated. Differences in absolute FA concentrations were observed among the tested methods, in particular for some metabolically relevant FAs such as trans elaidic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid. The one-step method with saponification and 60 min of methylation time was selected since it allowed the identification of a higher number of FAs, and was further submitted to in-house validation. The proposed methodology provides a simple, fast and accurate tool to quantitatively analyse FAs in human RBCs, useful for clinical and nutritional studies.
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