8 Health Benefits of Gamma Linolenic Acid, GLA

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gamma linolenic acid

GLA or Gamma Linolenic acid is the most popular omega-6 fatty acid produced in the human body and obtained in various essential fatty acids. GLA is found in the human’s breast milk and oils of the seeds of borage, black currant plants and evening primrose.

Other Names

Black currant oil, borage seed oil, evening primrose oil, GLA

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GLA or Gamma Linolenic acid is the most popular omega-6 fatty acid produced in the human body and obtained in various essential fatty acids. GLA is found in the human’s breast milk and oils of the seeds of borage, black currant plants and evening primrose.

The most important omega-6 essential fatty acid is linolenic acid. This acid occurs largely in plant oils. However, this dietary omega 6 acid is not biologically active. Meaning, it cannot be used in its naturally occurring form. For this to happen, the body transforms the linolenic acid into GLA.

GLA is normally used by the body to produce prostaglandins – a hormone-like substance responsible for immune system regulation and other body processes.

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Some of the seeds that contain gamma Linolenic acid have been used for centuries as a folk remedy. However, medical recognition for these seed oils containing GLA is only quite recent.

In the 1980s, a study discovered that substances known as prostaglandins have a vital role in various biological processes. Given that gamma linolenic acid is known to be an element for some prostaglandins, it was believed to have a potential therapeutic use in treating diseases.

Since consuming plant oils does not necessarily shield the body against GLA deficiency, gamma linolenic acid could be taken as tablet or capsule food supplements.

Gamma linolenic acid supplements are extracted from fatty-acid-rich plants. The therapeutic herb called borage has the largest composition of 25% GLA. The oils of black currant seeds contain 14% GLA and evening primrose contains only 5 to 9% GLA. Other sources of gamma linolenic acid include olive oil and hemp oil.

In the U.S., gamma linolenic acid is promoted as dietary supplements. For this reason, manufactures are allowed to market these supplements without proving its safety and effectiveness – given the provision that they do not claim it could cure, treat and prevent a particular disease.

GLA supplements are promoted to help individuals with skin problems, heart disease, breast tenderness, obesity, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, neurological disorders and premenstrual syndrome.

Suggested Treatments from using Gamma Linolenic Acid – GLA

  • Reduces the risks of blood clots
  • Alleviate symptoms of angina pectoris
  • Expands respiratory passages
  • Prevents mucus formation
  • Reduces cholesterol production
  • Boosts the effects of insulin
  • Prevents asthma attacks and infections
  • Improves immune system activity
  • Helps in treating schizophrenia and disseminated sclerosis
  • Treats alcoholic liver damage
  • Alleviates menstrual pains
  • Helps in hyperactivity involving children

Health Benefits

Preliminary studies suggest that gamma linolenic acid may be helpful for the following health conditions:

1. Diabetes

GLA supplementation could assist in the proper function of nerves particularly for people with diabetes. For this reason, it has been suggested that gamma linolenic acid could treat peripheral neuropathy – a nerve disorder associated with numbness, pain, tingling, burning and loss of sensation in legs and feet.

2. Eye disorders

Gamma linolenic acid is beneficial for dry-eye disorders. It could treat Sjogren’s syndrome – a health condition associated with arthritis, dry mouth and dry eyes.

3. Osteoporosis

When individuals become deficient in essential fatty acids such as GLA, they have higher risks of osteoporosis and severe bone loss.

Studies suggest that GLA supplements, together with eicosopentaenoic acid (EPA), could help in maintaining bone mass.

GLA may also improve the calcium absorption and increase the calcium deposits in bones. It could also prevent the loss of calcium in urine as well as improve bone growth and strength.

4. Menopausal symptoms

Although evening primrose oil has been known to treat hot flashes, it has not been proven that GLA may be helpful in treating these symptoms.

5. PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)

Although results from using GLA supplements have been varied, some women reported relief of PMS symptoms when using various forms of gamma linolenic acid.

6. Eczema

Various studies suggest that evening primrose oil, which is rich in gamma linolenic acid, could be beneficial at relieving symptoms of eczema such as redness, scaling and itching.

However, GLA supplements derived from evening primrose oil were studied and offered no positive results. As well, results from evening primrose oil and GLA supplements in connection to treating eczema may vary from person to person.

7. Rheumatoid arthritis

Some preliminary studies suggest GLA, which were derived from black currant seed oil and borage oil may reduce the pain of joints, morning stiffness and swelling.

GLA supplements may also help in reducing the amount of medications prescribed to arthritis patients.

However, these studies have been small and not well designed. Further research is needed to verify these promising results.

8. Obesity

Although the results of studies involving the usage of evening primrose oil may be mixed, it has shown to work for some people.

A particular study suggests that if the GLA supplement is going to act as a weight loss agent, it does so particularly for overweight or obese individuals. In fact, some studies suggest that the larger you weigh, the larger the chances that evening primrose oil will work.

However, these small-scale studies also suggest that supplementation for obesity may not work for everyone.

Possible Side Effects

Gamma linolenic acid and other omega-6 supplements should not be used if the patient is being treated with seizure disorders. There have been reported cases wherein these supplements have induced seizures.

Borage seed oil, evening primrose oil and other sources of gamma linolenic acid should not be consumed during pregnancy since it could harm the fetus and possibly induce early labor.

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Gamma linolenic acid is an essential fatty acid, which is part of the omega-6 family. It is found in plant-based oils such as borage seed oils, evening primrose oils (EPO), and black currant seed oils.

GLA supplements are available in oil-containing capsule forms.

This essential fatty acid has been studied to show promising results in health conditions such as diabetes, eye disease, osteoporosis, premenstrual syndrome, menopausal symptoms, eczema, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), ulcers, alcoholism, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and cancer.

Because of the possible adverse effects of gamma linolenic acid supplements, it is advisable to consult with your healthcare provider before supplementing with any of the GLA forms.

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