Gamma-linolenic acid

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Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is an omega-6 fatty acid that exists primarily in plant fats.

It's a precursor of prostaglandin E1, very active biologically regulating such functions as the vessel and immune systems.

The omega fatty acids prove to be very beneficial to health. A common misconception is that all omega fatty acids are found lacking in peoples diets but in fact it is usually the omega-3 fatty acids found in flax seed and most fish, including salmon. Studies have shown that the average person consumes up to 10 times their required daily intake of omega-6 fatty acids.

Contents

Sources

GLA is usually found in evening primrose oil, black currant seed oil, borage oil and hemp seed oil. Each contain varying amounts of the fatty acid with borage oil usually being the most heavily concentrated form. All four oils can be found on the shelves in most drugstores.

From all the other sources of GLA, that in evening primrose oil appears to be the most biologically active. This seems to be because most of the GLA is in the form of Enotherol, a particular triglyceride consisting of two molecules of LA and one of GLA on a glycerol backbone. It has been suggested that in Enotherol, GLA is in its most readily metabolisable form

Basically, the body takes the GLA and turns it into another form, dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA), which is critical in producing prostaglandin. Prostaglandin itself is vital to basic cell structure and function, among other things.

Theories saying that most people lack GLA are often incorrect. GLA is produced by the body naturally from linoleic acid (LA). Not to be confused with linolenic acid which is the omega-3 fatty acid found in flax seed. The LA is consumed from cooking oils and meats, all of which have it in abundance. The lack in GLA can come when people grow older and their body becomes unable to properly produce a sufficient quantity of it, or if a person has dietary deficiencies which are preventing the conversion process from taking place.

GLA can also be found in another form where it is successfully bonded with polar lithium salt so it has the ability of disolving well in water. The resulting compound is Li-GLA which is called Lithium gamma-linolenic acid or lithium gammalinolenate. Li-GLA is very commonly used intravenously to fight HIV since it has the ability to destroy HIV infected T cells in the human body.

Benefits

As to health benefits, GLA is sometimes prescribed in the belief that it is an anti-inflammatory herb lacking common side effects of other anti-inflammatory drugs. Some people who deal with herbal medicine take GLA for autoimmune disorders, arthritis and pre-menstrual syndrome. Immediate results shouldn't be expected though, it can take up to one month, or even two, to see noticeable results. Studies are currently being done using GLA as a cancer inhibiting agent. Conflicting data is found for GLA being a treatment of eczema (skin disorders). It is heavily advised that people taking drugs to combat fits of epilepsy not to take GLA due to interference with anticonvulsant medication. It is also discouraged to take GLA over any sort of long term due to studies showing that it can lead to inflammation and other problems.

History

In the Middle Ages, an old wive's tale would be to take borage for any problems from rheumatism to heart disease.

See also

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