Linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids are the fatty acids designated as "essential" since they are not synthesized by mammalian cells and must be provided in the diet. The recent dietary shift towards the consumption of n-6 (omega-6) at the expense of n-3 (omega-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) is thought to be a primary cause of many diseases related to the Western diet.

The body converts linoleic acid to arachidonic acid and derives eicosapentaenoic acid from alpha-linolenic acid. Ideally the effects of these fatty acids and their eicosanoid derivatives are tailored to the specific biological needs of the body. The balance between n-3 and n-6 PUFAs is essential for metabolism and maintenance of the functions of both classes. The availability of n-3 long chain PUFAs plays a major role in regulating both fat accumulation and its elimination by the liver.

Derangement of hepatic n-6:n-3 PUFA ratio impacts on the histological pattern of fatty liver through modulation of the amount of intrahepatic lipids. Moreover, the influence of PUFAs and their eicosanoid products on hepatic microcirculation and ischemia/reperfusion injury has been demonstrated in many studies.

This concise review article will focus on the role of PUFAs and eicosanoids in hepatic steatosis, microcirculation and ischemia/reperfusion injury.