Linoleic acid: between doubts and certainties

Biochimie. 2014 Jan;96:14-21. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2013.07.012. Epub 2013 Jul 27.


Linoleic acid is the most abundant polyunsaturated fatty acid in human nutrition and represents about 14 g per day in the US diet. Following the discovery of its essential functions in animals and humans in the early 1920's, studies are currently questioning the real requirement of linoleic acid. It seems now overestimated and creates controversy: how much linoleic acid should be consumed in a healthy diet? Beyond the necessity to redefine the dietary requirement of linoleic acid, many questions concerning the consequences of its excessive consumption on human health arise. Linoleic acid is a direct precursor of the bioactive oxidized linoleic acid metabolites. It is also a precursor of arachidonic acid, which produces pro-inflammatory eicosanoids and endocannabinoids. A majority of the studies on linoleic acid and its derivatives show a direct/indirect link with inflammation and metabolic diseases. Many authors claim that a high linoleic acid intake may promote inflammation in humans. This review tries to (i) highlight the importance of reconsidering the actual requirement of linoleic acid (ii) point out the lack of knowledge between dietary levels of linoleic acid and the molecular mechanisms explaining its physiological roles (iii) demonstrate the relevance of carrying out further human studies on the single variable linoleic acid.

Keywords: Excess; Inflammation; Linoleic acid; Metabolic diseases; Requirement.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arachidonic Acid / metabolism
  • Endocannabinoids / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Linoleic Acid / physiology*
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Nutritional Requirements


  • Endocannabinoids
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Arachidonic Acid
  • Linoleic Acid