Why is arachidonic acid conditionally essential? Arachidonic acid is not an essential fatty acid, but it is conditional essential fatty acid.
Arachidonic acid is not one of the essential fatty acids. However, it does become essential if a deficiency in linoleic acid exists or if an inability to convert linoleic acid to arachidonic acid occurs. Some mammals lack the ability or have a very limited capacity to convert linoleic acid to arachidonic acid, making it an essential part of their diets. Since little or no arachidonic acid is found in common plants, such animals are obligate carnivores; the cat is a common example having inability to desaturate essential fatty acids. A commercial source of arachidonic acid has been derived, however, from the fungus Mortierella alpina.
Arachidonic acid (as ARA) is one of the most abundant fatty acids in the brain, and is present in similar quantities to docosahexaenoic acid (as DHA). The two account for about 20% of its fatty acids content.
Arachidonic acid can be converted from linoleic acid in human body itself, but in quite small quantity, not enough for the growing, that’s also why is arachidonic acid conditionally essential, and we have to add ARA from diet.