Dietary omega3-polyunsaturated fatty acids are thought to influence the risk of Alzheimer's disease (AD), and supplemental docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 22:6n-3) has been reported to reduce neurodegeneration in mouse models of AD. We have analysed the fatty acid composition of frontal, temporal and parietal neocortex in 58 normal and 114 AD brains. Significant reductions were found for stearic acid (18:0) in frontal and temporal cortex and arachidonic acid (20:4n-6) in temporal cortex in AD, and increases in oleic acid in frontal and temporal cortex (18:1n-9) and palmitic acid (16:0) in parietal cortex. DHA level varied more in AD than controls but the mean values were not significantly different. Fatty acid composition was not related to APOE genotype, age, gender or post-mortem delay. Further research is needed to distinguish between alterations that are secondary to AD and those that contribute to the disease process.