Rats were fed a diet poor (0.05%) in essential fatty acids (EFA) with hydrogenated coconut oil as fat component, or a control diet containing 4% of the total energy intake in the form of linoleic acid. Effects of dietary EFA deficiency were investigated during a period of 2-30 weeks. Growth retardation becomes significant after 4 weeks of deficiency and attains about 25% when the deficiency is maintained for longer than 12 weeks. Respiration, body weight and age of EFA-deficient rats and controls are in a nonlinear relationship. Basal respiration in relation to the body weight is significantly increased by EFA deficiency; it is unchanged when related to total animals under the employed experimental conditions. Oxidative phosphorylation in isolated liver mitochondria is unaffected by EFA deficiency, i.e., the increased metabolic rate of EFA-deficient rats, related to the body weight, cannot be explained from impaired functional integrity of the inner mitochondrial membrane. Respiratory chain enzyme activities in mitochondria from heart and skeletal muscle and specific amounts of mitochondria in these tissues are unchanged by EFA deficiency.