The transient rise in plasma triacylglycerol fatty acids after single-dose ingestion of fish oil as triacylglycerols, free acids, or ethyl esters with linseed oil as an absorption standard was used to determine the relative absorption of fish oil fatty acids in eight men. As free acids, the fish oil fatty acids were well absorbed (greater than or equal to 95%). As triacylglycerols, eicosapentaenoic acid (1.00 g) and docosahexaenoic acid (0.67 g) were absorbed only 68% and 57% as well as the free acids. The ethyl esters were absorbed only 20% and 21% as well as the free acids. The incomplete absorption of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids from fish oil triacylglycerols correlates well with known in vitro pancreatic lipase activity.