The triacylglycerol emulsion Intralipid was infused into six normal subjects to investigate the metabolism of individual fatty acids in subcutaneous adipose tissue and forearm muscle, by measurement of arteriovenous differences. The composition of plasma nonesterified fatty acids changed steadily after passage through adipose tissue and became similar to that of the emulsion, reflecting hydrolysis of the Intralipid- triacylglycerol by lipoprotein lipase, since endogenous lipolysis (hormone- sensitive lipase activity plus lipoprotein lipase hydrolysis of very low density lipoprotein triacylglycerol) was decreased. There was no significant net release of total or individual fatty acids from forearm muscle although there was a tendency for the composition of the fatty acids in forearm venous plasma to change during passage through the tissue to reflect the composition of the emulsion. This may reflect hydrolysis of emulsion particles by lipoprotein lipase situated in capillaries which drain into the forearm vein. The behavior of stearic acid in the plasma nonesterified fatty acid pool was consistently aberrant, with arterialized concentrations considerably higher than predicted from adipose tissue release, both before and during Intralipid infusion. We conclude that there are no significant differences in the metabolism of specific fatty acids, with the exception of stearic acid.