Hannah Vallin 


Institute: Aberystwyth University

Effects of Echium oil of the rumen microbial ecosystem


Coronary heart disease (CHD) results in 100,000 deaths annually.  In order to reduce the risk of CHD many studies have contributed to the advice that saturated fatty acid intake should be <0.10 and n-6:n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) should be <4 for the whole diet.  As such increasing longer chain C20n-3 PUFA as well as the 18:3n-3 PUFA in beef is critical to increase its ‘healthiness’ for the consumer. 

In ruminants, the conversion of 18:3n-3 to its longer chain derivatives C20n-3 PUFA has received little attention.  The first step in the conversion of 18:3n-3 to its longer chain derivative is elongation to 18:4n-3 (stearidonic acid) (Williams and Burge, 2006).  This first step is considered to be rate-limiting and entry to the pathway at stearidonic acid is likely to result in increased conversion to the long chain C20-PUFA. 

IBERS have conducted a study as part of the “Plant based strategies to improve the nutritional value of beef for the consumer; Probeef” and “Improving the safety of beef and beef products for the consumer in production and processing; Prosafebeef” projects feeding variable levels of Echium oil (rich in stearidonic acid) to steers before slaughter and resultant fatty acid analysis of muscle.  Echium oil did not result in an increased longer chain C20n-3 PUFA content of the muscle but saturated fatty acid content was reduced substantially.  The rumen bacteria convert PUFA to SFA in the rumen and in a parallel study we have collected rumen samples post Echium feeding. Assessing the effects of Echium oil supplementation on the rumen microbiota using high throughput sequencing will further our understanding of which bacteria play a role in the final SFA content of beef substantially.


To investigate the effects of Echium oil on the rumen microbial ecosystem.

Value to industry

This research will further our understanding of the contribution that rumen bacteria play in the final fatty acid content of meat.


To view a poster explaining the outcomes of this project, click here

To read the final report, click here

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