In 1929, Burr and Burr 1 found that the rigid exclusion of fat from the diet of rats induced a deficiency disease characterized by cessation of growth, scaly skin, cessation of reproduction, caudal necrosis, and kidney malfunction. The large body of research done in the years since then has confirmed and extended the original reports. This background information is summarized in a recent review.2 Increased interest in the role of lipides in metabolic and pathologic processes has focussed considerable attention upon the essential fatty acids (EFA), and it will be the purpose here to discuss a few recent and current researches and concepts regarding the function and metabolism of these substances.
Effects of EFA Deficiency
The symptoms commonly taken as a measure of EFA deficiency are diminished growth and scaliness of skin (Fig. 1). The normal yellow-brown pigment of the rat skin also disappears during deficiency,3 and the