Burr and Burr1 showed that animals cannot survive without dietary fat. Supplementing a fat-free diet with certain fatty acids termed essential prevents the symptoms of fat deficiency.

Essential fatty acids consist mainly of linoleic (18:2), linolenic (18:3), arachidonic (20:4), and probably 20:5 and 22:6 acids.

Deficiency results in changes of cellular and cellular membrane permeability. Essential fatty acids are found in high concentration in phospholipids and in the lipoprotein complexes. Mitachondrial fractions are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids and multiple enzyme activities are altered in their absence. Deficiency symptoms arise most rapidly in those animals undergoing rapid growth.

Clinical signs of dietary deficiency in humans has been limited largely to young rapidly growing infants.

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