Decreased bile secretion into the intestine has been associated with low plasma concentrations of essential fatty acids (EFA) in humans. We studied the mechanism behind this relationship by determining the status and absorption of the major dietary EFA, linoleic acid (LA), in control and 1-week bile-diverted rats. The absorption of LA was quantified by a balance method and by measuring plasma concentrations of [13C]LA after its intraduodenal administration. Absolute and relative concentrations of LA in plasma were decreased in bile-diverted rats (P<0.01 and P<0.001, respectively). Fecal excretion of LA was increased at least 20-fold in bile-diverted rats (0.72+/-0.11 vs. 0.03+/-0.00 mmol/day; P<0.0001). Due to increased chow ingestion by bile-diverted rats, net intestinal absorption of LA was similar between bile-diverted and control rats (1.96+/-0.14 vs. 1.91+/-0.07 mmol/day, respectively; P>0.05). After intraduodenal administration of [13C]LA, plasma concentrations were approximately 3-4-fold lower in bile-diverted rats for at least 6 h (P<0.001). Plasma concentrations of both [12C]arachidonic acid and [13C]arachidonic acid were increased in bile-diverted rats (P<0.05). We conclude that decreased plasma concentrations of LA in 1-week bile-diverted rats are not due to decreased net intestinal absorption of LA, but may be related to increased metabolism of LA.