Objective. Enkephalins are neuropeptides involved in functions such as pain modulation and/ or cognitive processes. It has been reported that dietary fat modifies enkephalins in the brain. Since enkephalins are hydrolyzed by enkephalinases, the study of the influence of dietary fats, differing in their degree of saturation, on brain fatty acids content and enkephalinase activity is important to understand its regulatory role on neuropeptides under different type of diets.

Methods. We analyzed enkephalinase activity, assayed with alanine-β-naphthylamide as sub-strate, in frontal cortex of adult male rats fed diets supplemented with fish oil, olive oil or coconut oil, which markedly differed in the saturation of their fatty acids.

Results. Rats fed a diet enriched with coconut oil had lower soluble enkephalinase activity than the group fed olive oil (p<0.01) and fish oil (p<0.05) whereas rats fed a diet enriched with fish oil had lower membrane-bound enkephalinase activity than the group fed with olive (p<0.001) or coconut oil (p<0.05). Significant negative correlations were observed between certain fatty acids and enkephalinase activities in the groups fed with olive and coconut oils. No correlations were observed in the group fed with fish oil.

Conclusions. Dietary fat modifies enkephalinase activity in the frontal cortex depending on the degree of saturation of the used oil. It is postulated that the functions, in which enkephalins are involved, such as pain modulation or cognitive functions, may also be affected according to the type of oil used in the diet.