Our hypothesis that the trans fatty acids in hydrogenated fat inhibited the synthesis of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the phospholipid of arterial cells was tested with five groups each with six pregnant porcine fed from d 35 of gestation and during lactation. The basal diet contained 2% corn oil (control). The other four diets included the control + 10% butter or 10% hydrogenated fat plus two levels of Mg. Plasma, milk and aortic phospholipid fatty acids, phospholipid composition and calcium content of the aorta from the piglets were determined. At 48 +/- 2 d of age, the aorta phospholipid of piglets from porcine fed hydrogenated fat contained a significantly higher concentration of linoleic acid, less arachidonic acid, and less long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) than did piglets from porcine fed either butterfat or the control diet. Mg had no effect. These changes in composition in piglets from porcine fed hydrogenated fat indicate that trans fat inhibits the metabolic conversion of linoleic acid to arachidonic acid and to other n-6 PUFA. The aortic calcium content data showed a significant interaction of calcium concentration with age. We concluded: 1) that dietary trans fat perturbed essential fatty acid (EFA) metabolism which led to changes in the phospholipid fatty acid composition in the aorta, the target tissue of atherogenesis, 2) this inhibition of EFA to PUFA by the isomeric fatty acids in hydrogenated fat is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease.