There are 2 classes of essential fatty acids (EFA), the linoleic (n-6) and linolenic (n-3). They are required for the glycerophosphatides (phospholipids) of cellular membranes; the transport and oxidation of cholesterol; the formation of prostaglandins. In deficiency of EFA, cellular membranes are imperfectly formed which causes increased susceptibility to various insults and increased permeability. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) transport cholesterol mainly as cholesteryl linoleate and supply EFA to tissue. A relative deficiency of EFA (i.e. a high ratio in the body of non-EFA such as long-chain saturated fatty acids to EFA) causes an increase in plasma cholesterol. EFAs cause decreased aggregation of platelets. Atherosclerosis is not caused by increased aggregation of platelets, and can be prevalent in a population in which coronary thrombosis is rare.
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