VIENNA, April 13 (Xinhua) -- Unsaturated fatty acids, especially Omega-6 fatty acids, can protect cells from cold, according to a study published on Wednesday.
A research team from Veterinary University of Vienna observed a significant increase in Omega-6 content in the cell membranes of marmots' internal organs before they went into hibernation. That content then was maintained at a high level during hibernation, the study said.
Marmots lower their body temperature closely to the ambient air temperature for most of the time during hibernation.
Researchers believed that the continuous transfer of storage fat into fatty acids guarantees the function of internal organs, including the heart, at very low temperatures.
Direct food intake involving unsaturated fatty acids were ruled out as marmots do not eat during hibernation.
The research results, which were published in the science journal "PLoS ONE," have advanced the theory that only the composition of food intake would affect the composition of cell membranes.
Experts believed that all mammals, including humans, have their body temperatures reduced to some extent in winter.
In general, unsaturated fatty acids can help keep the internal organs working in good temperatures and this result is of great significance to help explain the increase of sudden cardiac death during the late winter months.