Polyunsaturated fatty acids play an important part in the structure and function of cellular membranes and are precursors of lipid mediators which play a key role in cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases.

Dietary sources of essential fatty acids are vegetable oils for either linoleic or alpha-linolenic acids, and sea fish oils for eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids.

Because of the specificity of the pancreatic lipid hydrolases, triglyceride fatty acid distribution is an essential parameter in the digestibility of fats. The efficiency of the intestinal uptake depends on the hydrolysis and especially on their micellarization. n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid ethyl ester digestion is recognized to be impaired, but n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid triglyceride hydrolysis remains a controversial point, and to some authors explains differences observed between vegetable and fish oil absorption.

So additional studies are required to investigate this intestinal step. In enterocytes, morphological and biochemical absorption processes involve reesterification of long-chain fatty acids and lipoprotein formation. At this level, specific affinity of I- and L-FABPc (cytosolic fatty acid binding proteins) to polyunsaturated fatty acids requires further investigation.

A better understanding of the role of these FABPc might bring to light the esterification step, particularly the integration of polyunsaturated fatty acids into phospholipids. With reference to differences published between fish and vegetable oil absorption, longer-term absorption studies appear essential to some authors.

Polyunsaturated fatty acid absorption is thought to be not very dissimilar to that of long-chain mono-unsaturated fatty acid absorption. However, several digestion and absorption specific steps are worth studying with reference to the crucial role of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the organism, and for example adaptation of possible dietary supplements.