AbstractPremenstrual syndrome is now recognized as a condition that probably has an endocrine or biochemical basis. However, it has proved difficult to demonstrate any consistent significant differences from normal in any parameter measured to date. We have measured essential fatty acid levels in phospholipids in plasma taken from 42 women with well-defined premenstrual syndrome. The women were not on any treatment during the cycles when samples were taken in both follicular and luteal phases. The levels of linoleic acid, the main dietary n-6 essential fatty acid, were significantly above normal, indicating no deficit of intake or absorption. In spite of this, concentrations of all metabolites of linoleic acid were significantly reduced, suggesting a defect in conversion of linoleic acid to gamma-linolenic acid. Possibly in compensation, levels of n-3 essential fatty acids were elevated. The same abnormalities were present in both follicular and luteal phases. This abnormality cannot therefore be the direct cause of the symptoms that appear in the luteal phase, but it may sensitize tissues so that they respond abnormally to normal levels of reproductive hormones.
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