AbstractEssential fatty acids (EFAs) are required for the normal structure of all membranes, for cholesterol transport, for the maintenance of normal permeability barriers and as precursors of eicosanoids. The main EFA in the diet is linoleic acid (LA) but in order to be utilized effectively it must be converted to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and to further metabolites. The formation of GLA is impaired in diabetes, leading to deficits of EFA metabolites required for membrane structure and as precursors of cell-regulating molecules. This partial block may be an important factor in the development of long-term complications of diabetes. The block could be overcome either by feeding large amounts of LA or by the administration of GLA directly. Both strategies have been used successfully. Several studies have demonstrated the value of EFA supplementation in controlling diabetic cataract, diabetic retinopathy and diabetic cardiovascular complications.
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