Essential fatty acids in the plasma phospholipids of patients with atopic eczema



We have measured all the essential fatty acids (EFA) in plasma phospholipids in forty-one adults with atopic eczema and fifty normal controls. The major dietary n-6 EFA, linoleic acid, was significantly elevated, but all its metabolites, 18: 3n–6, 20: 3n–6, 20: 4n–6, 22: 4n–6, and 22: 5n–6 were significantly reduced. The major dietary n-3 EFA, alpha-linolenic acid, was also elevated, thought not significantly, while all its metabolites were also significantly reduced. These observations suggest that atopic eczema is associated not with any defect of EFA intake, but with abnormal metabolism, possibly involving the enzyme delta-6-desaturase. Treatment with oral evening primrose oil produced partial correction of the n-6 EFA abnormality, but had no effect on the n-3 EFAs.