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Biotechnol J. 2006 Apr;1(4):420-39.

Essential fatty acids: biochemistry, physiology and pathology.

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UND Life Sciences, Shaker Heights, OH 44120, USA.


Essential fatty acids (EFAs), linoleic acid (LA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) are essential for humans, and are freely available in the diet. Hence, EFA deficiency is extremely rare in humans. To derive the full benefits of EFAs, they need to be metabolized to their respective long-chain metabolites, i.e., dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA), and arachidonic acid (AA) from LA; and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from ALA. Some of these long-chain metabolites not only form precursors to respective prostaglandins (PGs), thromboxanes (TXs), and leukotrienes (LTs), but also give rise to lipoxins (LXs) and resolvins that have potent anti-inflammatory actions. Furthermore, EFAs and their metabolites may function as endogenous angiotensin-converting enzyme and 3-hdroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors, nitric oxide (NO) enhancers, anti-hypertensives, and anti-atherosclerotic molecules. Recent studies revealed that EFAs react with NO to yield respective nitroalkene derivatives that exert cell-signaling actions via ligation and activation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors. The metabolism of EFAs is altered in several diseases such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, coronary heart disease, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, atherosclerosis, and cancer. Thus, EFAs and their derivatives have varied biological actions and seem to be involved in several physiological and pathological processes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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