Increased requirements for essential fatty acids in atopic individuals: a review with clinical descriptions.


Galland L




J Am Coll Nutr


Patients with atopic eczema and a mixture of allergic illnesses show biochemical evidence suggesting impairment in the desaturation of linoleic acid and linolenic acid by the enzyme delta-6 dehydrogenase. Consequences of this enzyme defect are 1) diminished synthesis of the 20-carbon polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are prostaglandin precursors and 2) a reduction in the concentration of double bonds in the cell membrane. A distortion in the production of prostaglandins and leukotrienes, which might result from this block, can account for the immunological defects of atopy and a variety of clinical symptoms experienced by atopic individuals. Dietary supplementation with essential fatty acids relieves the signs and symptoms of atopic eczema, may improve other types of allergic inflammation, and may also correct coexisting symptoms as diverse as excessive thirst and dysmenorrhea. Further research is suggested to test the hypothesis that some atopic states represent a condition of essential fatty acid dependency owing to defective desaturation of dietary fatty acids.