Essential fatty acids (EFAs)--linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) are critical for human survival. EFAs are readily available in the diet. But, to derive their full benefit, EFAs need to be metabolized to their respective long-chain metabolites.

EFAs not only form precursors to respective prostaglandins (PGs), thromboxanes (TXs), and leukotrienes (LTs), but also give rise to lipoxins (LXs), resolvins, isoprostanes, and hydroxy- and hydroperoxyeicosatetraenoates. Certain PGs, TXs, and LTs have pro-inflammatory actions whereas LXs and resolvins are anti-inflammatory in nature.

Furthermore, EFAs and their long-chain metabolites modulate the activities of angiotensin converting and HMG-CoA reductase enzymes, enhance acetylcholine levels in the brain, increase the synthesis of endothelial nitric oxide, augment diuresis, and enhance insulin action.

Thus, EFAs and their metabolites may function as endogenous ACE and HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, nitric oxide enhancers, beta-blockers, diuretics, anti-hypertensive, and anti-atherosclerotic molecules.

In addition, EFAs and their long-chain metabolites react with nitric oxide (NO) to yield respective nitroalkene derivatives that exert cell-signaling actions via ligation and activation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs).

Thus, EFAs and their derivatives have varied biological actions that may have relevance to their involvement in several physiological and pathological processes.