Articles

Essential fatty acid metabolism and its modification in atopic eczema

Author

Horrobin DF

Date

1/2000

Journal

Am J Clin Nutr

Abstract

Research from the 1930s to the 1950s established that a deficit of n-6 essential fatty acids (EFAs) leads to an inflammatory skin condition in both animals and humans. In a common inherited skin condition, atopic dermatitis (eczema), there was evidence of low blood EFA concentrations and of a therapeutic response to exceptionally high doses of linoleic acid. More recently, it has been established that there is no deficit of linoleic acid in atopic eczema. Concentrations of linoleic acid instead tend to be elevated in blood, milk, and adipose tissue of patients with atopic eczema, whereas concentrations of linoleic acid metabolites are substantially reduced. This suggests reduced conversion of linoleic acid to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). In most but not all studies, administration of GLA has been found to improve the clinically assessed skin condition, the objectively assessed skin roughness, and the elevated blood catecholamine concentrations of patients with atopic eczema. Atopic eczema may be a minor inherited abnormality of EFA metabolism.