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Am J Clin Nutr. 1976 Apr;29(4):398-401.

Reversal of experimental essential fatty acid deficiency by cutaneous administration of safflower oil.


The intriguing observation that cutaneous application of essential fatty acid (EFA)-rich oil corrects the biochemical abnormalities of EFA deficiency was evaluated in EFA-deficient rats. Approximately 185 mg of safflower oil (140 mg of linoleic acid) were applied daily for 15 days to the kin of EFA-deficient rats. Before and after treatment with the safflower oil, the fatty acid patterns of plasma and erythrocyte phospholipid as well as of plasma triglyceride and cholesterol ester fractions were determined. The linoleic and arachidonic acid content of both plasma and erythrocyte phospholipid increased, while the eicosatrienoic acid content of both fractions decreased. The linoleic acid content of plasma triglyceride increased with safflower oil treatment, but little change occurred in the almost undetectable pretreatment levels of arachidonic and eicosatrienoic acid. In the plasma cholesterol ester fraction, arachidonic acid increased with treatment and eicosatrienoic acid decreased, but the small increase in the linoleic acid content was not statistically significant. Thus, the study confirms the observation that cutaneous application of EFA-rich oils reverses the plasma biochemical manifestation of EFA deficiency. In addition cutaneously applied EFA-rich oils reversed the biochemical manifestations of EFA deficiency in erythrocytes. Whether or not cutaneous application of such oils will prevent EFA deficiency, however, remains to be proven.

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