Although they sound very similar, linoleic and linolenic acids are two different types of acids, having slightly different atomic compositions and structures, based on information provided by the National Center for Biotechnology. Both are fatty acids found in plants, but because of differences in composition, they serve slightly different functions.
Linoleic acid, also known as linolic acid or linoleate, is a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid. Nutritionally, it is essential to the diets of mammals and is required during the molecular breakdown that takes place in prostaglandins and cell membranes. Its molecular structure is composed of 18 carbon atoms, 32 hydrogen atoms and two oxygen atoms.
Linolenic acid, also known as alpha-Linolenic acid and linolenate, is an essential omega-3 fatty acid used in the formation of prostaglandins. It is commonly found in seeds, nuts and vegetable oils. Its molecular structure is composed of 18 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms and two oxygen atoms.