Natural Healing: GLA and Borage Oil Benefits

| September/October 2001

  • Borage oil and gamma linolenic acid (GLA) can help soothe the skin and relieve PMS.

GLA: The “good” omega-6
Ann Louise Gittleman, N.D., M.S., C.N.S.

Have you caught the buzz? It’s hard to miss. All across the continent—in magazine articles, newspapers, books, on TV, and on websites—the health benefits from the right kinds of fats are making the news. Health-conscious people are consuming flaxseed and fish oils in record amounts to get the benefits of omega-3 essential fatty acids. Indeed, these good fats can have an amazing impact on health: The omega-3s have taken center stage for their beneficial effects on cardiovascular health, depression, menopausal discomforts, and immune dysfunction.

In all the hype, many people have come to believe that only omega-3 fats are good and that omega-6s are bad. Small intake of omega-6 fatty acids is essential, but some omega-6s are bad when consumed in excess—primarily linoleic acid (LA), found in various vegetable oils (corn, soy, sunflower, safflower, and cottonseed). But there is another fat in the omega-6 family that’s a powerful key to vibrant health and radiant beauty: gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). So if you’ve been primarily focusing on the omega-3 sources of good fats, you could very well be overlooking an amazing giant among nutrients.

The good omega-6

The power of GLA comes from the production of anti-inflammatory, hormonelike substances called eicosanoids. This powerful family of compounds includes prostaglandins, short-lived elements that regulate metabolic processes down to the cellular level. The specific prostaglandin PGE1 is responsible for the numerous benefits associated with fatty acids, such as the ability to soothe skin, promote healing, and regulate water loss. Thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties, GLA-regulated prostaglandins help to distend blood vessels so the bloodstream can move smoothly. They also aid in restraining blood clotting as well as abating the swelling, pain, and redness caused by bodily injuries.

Getting enough GLA

With GLA being so vital to the system, making sure your body has sufficient amounts of it is wise. But that’s not as easy as it sounds. A healthy body uses some of the LA it gets in the diet to produce GLA, but most of us don’t properly utilize LA. There are a number of dietary and lifestyle factors inhibiting the conversion of LA to GLA: sugar consumption, smoking, alcohol, chemical carcinogens, aging, and illnesses such as viral infections.

In addition, there are major metabolic roadblocks that get in the way of the conversion. The main culprits are the “bad” fats, or trans fatty acids, such as margarine and shortening (created when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oils to make them solid at room temperature). These fats are totally incapable of being converted into the powerful GLA. Instead, they actually hinder the very catalyst needed for the GLA transformation, an enzyme called delta-6-desaturase and its vital co-workers—vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin B3, zinc and magnesium. A diet loaded with trans fats is even capable of triggering an essential fatty acid deficiency. And that leads to an imbalance in prostaglandin levels, resulting in skin problems such as itching, eczema, and reddish or dry patches of skin.

Karen Robinson
1/28/2013 4:30:29 AM

good stuff..

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