The group of substances known as the essential fatty acids (EFA) have recently become a central focus of research and interest in human nutrition. Of these linoleic, linolenic, and arachidonic are most commonly available in food and therefore of most practical importance. The original work with these acids, in dermatology, resulted in conflicting findings.1-3 At the present, attention is concentrated on their role in relation to fat metabolism and consequently is directed toward their possible impact on atherosclerosis.
Sinclair4 proposed that a disproportionate intake of saturated and unsaturated fats produces lipidemia through excessive esterification of cholesterol with saturated fatty acids, the products of which are not easily metabolized. It has been demonstrated in humans that high-vegetable-fat diets5 and artificial diets containing corn oil6 significantly lower serum cholesterol levels. The clinical importance of these findings resides in the at present enigmatic interrelationship between diet, cholesteremia, and atherosclerosis.