|Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency In Childhood|
Essential fatty acids must
be consumed in the diet. They include linoleic ,
linolenic , arachidonic ,
eicosapentaenoic , and docosahexaenoic
acids . In the body, arachidonic acid can be made from linoleic
acid, and eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids can be made from
linolenic acid. Vegetable oils, such as corn oil, cottonseed oil, and
soybean oil, are sources of linoleic and linolenic acids; fish oils are
sources of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids.
Essential fatty acids are needed for many physiologic processes, including
maintaining the integrity of the skin and the structure of cell membranes
and synthesizing important biologically active compounds, such as prostaglandins
and leukotrienes. Some animal studies suggest that essential fatty acids
may be necessary for the development of normal vision in infants.
Linoleic acid deficiency may occur in infants whose
formula is deficient in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Symptoms of this
deficiency include dry, scaly skin followed by peeling. A puslike fluid
may seep from areas around the skinfolds, especially around the anus.
An essential fatty acid deficiency also causes significant changes in
metabolism, affecting the lipid (fat) content of blood, platelet function,
inflammatory responses, and certain immune responses. Similar symptoms
may occur in patients who receive all nutrients intravenously for an extended
time (long-term total parenteral nutrition) but who are not given essential
fatty acids. When long-term total parenteral nutrition doesn't include
linolenic acid, neurologic complications including numbness, weakness,
an inability to walk, leg pain, and blurred vision may occur along with
very low blood levels of linolenic acid. Symptoms resolve when linolenic
acid is given.
From The Merck Manual of Medical Information – Home Edition , edited by Mark H. Beers and Robert Berkow. Copyright 1997 by Merck & Co., Inc., Whitehouse Station, NJ:
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