Lipids in Parenteral Nutrition: Biological Aspects

Philip C. Calder, Dan L. Waitzberg, Stanislaw Klek, Robert G. Martindale

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Lipid emulsions are an integral part of parenteral nutrition, and traditionally have been regarded as an energy-dense source of calories and essential fatty acids. For many years, lipids used in parenteral nutrition have been based on vegetable oils (eg, soybean-oil emulsions). However, soybean-oil emulsions may not have an optimal fatty-acid composition under some circumstances when used as the only lipid source, as soybean oil is particularly abundant in the ω-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), linoleic acid. Hence, a progressive series of more complex lipid emulsions have been introduced, typically combining soybean oil with 1 or more alternative oils, such as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and/or olive oil and/or fish oil. The wide range of lipid emulsions now available for parenteral nutrition offers opportunities to alter the supply of different fatty acids, which potentially modifies functional properties, with effects on inflammatory processes, immune response, and hepatic metabolism. Fish oil has become an important component of modern, composite lipid emulsions, in part owing to a growing evidence base concerning its biological effects in a variety of preclinical models. These biological activities of fish oil are mainly attributed to its ω-3 PUFA content, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). DHA and EPA have known mechanisms of action, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, and antioxidative properties. Specialized proresolving mediators, such as resolvins, protectins, and maresins, are synthesized directly from DHA and EPA, are key for the resolution of inflammation, and improve outcomes in many cell- and animal-based models and, recently, in some clinical settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S21-S27
JournalJournal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition
Issue numberS1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • fatty acids
  • fish oil
  • immunomodulation
  • inflammation
  • lipids
  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • parenteral nutrition
  • soybean oil
  • specialized pro-resolving mediator

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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