Common dietary sources of the various polyunsaturated fatty acids are shown in Table 1. Vertebrate animals can synthesize saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids from dietary carbohydrate but are unable to synthesize 18:2o6 or 18:3o3. These polyunsaturates must, therefore, be provided in the diet and are referred to as essential fatty acids. Animals can, however, convert 18:2o6 to 20:4o6 via the action of desaturase and elongase enzymes. The same enzymes are involved in the conversion of 18:3o3 to 20:5o3 and 22:6o3. This ability to synthesize C20 and C22 polyunsaturates from their C18 precursors varies greatly among animal species. Vertebrate animals are unable to perform interconversions between the o6 and o3 series.
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