Increasing dietary linoleic acid does not increase tissue arachidonic acid content in adults consuming Western-type diets: a systematic review

Nutr Metab (Lond). 2011 Jun 10;8:36. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-8-36.


Background: Linoleic acid, with a DRI of 12-17 g/d, is the most highly consumed polyunsaturated fatty acid in the Western diet and is found in virtually all commonly consumed foods. The concern with dietary linoleic acid, being the metabolic precursor of arachidonic acid, is its consumption may enrich tissues with arachidonic acid and contribute to chronic and overproduction of bioactive eicosanoids. However, no systematic review of human trials regarding linoleic acid consumption and subsequent changes in tissue levels of arachidonic acid has been undertaken.

Objective: In this study, we reviewed the human literature that reported changes in dietary linoleic acid and its subsequent impact on changing tissue arachidonic acid in erythrocytes and plasma/serum phospholipids.

Design: We identified, reviewed, and evaluated all peer-reviewed published literature presenting data outlining changes in dietary linoleic acid in adult human clinical trials that reported changes in phospholipid fatty acid composition (specifically arachidonic acid) in plasma/serum and erythrocytes within the parameters of our inclusion/exclusion criteria.

Results: Decreasing dietary linoleic acid by up to 90% was not significantly correlated with changes in arachidonic acid levels in the phospholipid pool of plasma/serum (p = 0.39). Similarly, when dietary linoleic acid levels were increased up to six fold, no significant correlations with arachidonic acid levels were observed (p = 0.72). However, there was a positive relationship between dietary gamma-linolenic acid and dietary arachidonic acid on changes in arachidonic levels in plasma/serum phospholipids.

Conclusions: Our results do not support the concept that modifying current intakes of dietary linoleic acid has an effect on changing levels of arachidonic acid in plasma/serum or erythrocytes in adults consuming Western-type diets.