Gamma-linolenic Acid

Gamma-linolenic acid (also called GLA) is an essential omega-6 fatty acid that is naturally present in plant-based oils. This essential omega-6 fatty acid is also known as y-linolenic acid.

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This fatty acid is essential for the human body. In fact, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is vital for the development and functioning of the brain. It is also necessary for the health of our bones and metabolism. However, the human body is unable to produce this fatty acid and, hence, it has to be obtained from dietary sources. Some of the dietary sources of this fatty acid include evening primrose, spirulina and many other oils extracted from plant seeds. In fact, you can also purchase various supplements containing the proper plant oils with GLA from health food stores.

Alongside omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids are regarded as essential for the development and functioning of our brain. In fact, omega-6 fatty acids like gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) promote cognitive as well as reproductive functions, besides regulating metabolism, aiding to maintain the health of our skin and hair and ensuring healthy bones. Taking a diet that is properly balanced usually containing sufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids as well as omega-6 fatty acids will help to ensure these.

Aside from spirulina oil and evening primrose oil, the other sources of gamma-linolenic acid are borage oil and black currant oil. While there are only a few dietary sources of omega-6 fatty acids, our body can manufacture essential fatty acid from linolenic acid, which is present in corn oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil and various other edible oils derived from plants. Aside from the dietary benefits offered by gamma-linolenic acid, it also possesses anti-inflammatory properties and is occasionally utilized in the form of a remedial dietary supplement. The therapeutic doses of this fatty acid may vary from 300 mg per day to 3,000 mg per day. It is generally taken along with food. It may take about six months to experience the benefits of supplementation with gamma-linolenic oil and its therapeutic use. However, sometimes one may experience the benefits of using this essential fatty acid in one to three months from the day of starting the supplementation therapy.

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Findings of studies undertaken on gamma-linolenic acid suggest that this essential fatty acid may be helpful in treating a number of health conditions. Since omega-fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids are capable of reducing inflammation, they may also prove to be effectual in alleviating symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, using these essential fatty acids may also provide relief from nerve discomfort and pain in people who are enduring diabetic neuropathy. A major dietary source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), evening primrose oil has traditionally been used in the form of a home remedy for symptoms related to allergy. Some research on the benefits of gamma-linolenic acid hint that the level of fatty acids is low in people who suffer from allergies. Findings of some other studies have suggested that gamma-linolenic acid may also be useful in treating other medical conditions such as hypertension, eczema, attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), osteoporosis and even breast cancer.

Health benefits

Borage oil is a major source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is actually an omega-6 fatty acid that is necessary for the robust health of our skin, hair and nails. In fact, our skin and hair enclose a type of fatty lipid compound. When omega-3 fatty acid is added to this compound it turns out to be healthier. This combination makes the hair stronger and shinier, while the skin becomes more supple and glowing. Borage oil possesses anti-inflammatory prosperities that are efficient in getting rid of the symptoms associated with acne and eczema.

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Women enduring pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) will find using borage oil highly beneficial. This oil possesses anti-inflammatory properties, which aids in enhancing blood circulation, treating tender breasts, reduce bloating and cramping. However, these benefits of borage oil can be obtained only when it is taken orally.

Aside from calcium, our bones also comprise essential fatty acids such as omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Hence, intake of these fatty acids is also necessary for the health of our bones. Consuming borage oil on a regular basis helps to prevent a number of bone-related problems such as osteoporosis. In addition, borage oil is a useful remedy for symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis such as stiffness and pain.

As discussed above, the anti-inflammatory property of this plant oil improves blood circulation. Hence, it helps to reduce high blood pressure (hypertension) by enhancing the circulation of blood throughout our body.

Borage oil contains gamma-linolenic acid, which is also useful for losing weight. Therefore, people desirous of losing additional body fat may try using borage oil after consulting a physician.

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Since gamma-linolenic acid is mainly used for its potent anti-inflammatory properties, it is also employed for treating tunnel syndrome, regulate the inflammatory response related to sinus problems and control the immune-inflammatory response associated with eczema. In addition, gamma-linolenic acid is used for treating health condition diabetes, allergies, asthma and osteoporosis.

Gamma-linoleic acid is considered to be very important for the functioning as well as development of our brain. At the same time, it helps to maintain the health of the vascular system, the optimal health of the skin, promote fertility, facilitate appropriate functioning of the immune system and, at the same time, support the normal physical development.

Findings of various studies undertaken on animals have revealed that GLA has the ability to put off development of chemically induced diabetes and also avoid diabetic neuropathy. Some studies have also shown that using GLA along with EPA helped to improve the condition of people suffering from asthma by suppressing production of leukotrine.

It has been found that gamma-linolenic acid is an effective remedy for autoimmune disorders such as eczema, rheumatoid arthritis and atopic dermatitis, without causing any adverse side effects that are a fall-out of using many medications.

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Findings of some studies have shown that using GLA has positive effects on several types of cancer. Gamma-linolenic acid helps to slow down the cancerous tumour growth, in addition to being an effective treatment for some cancer forms. Research has also shown that this essential omega-6 fatty acid helps to reduce weight in obese people. It actually helps such people from gaining more weight after losing much body weight. Moreover, using gamma-linolenic acid can help to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol, while increasing the level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or "good" cholesterol in the system. It is also effective in reducing aggregation of platelet in the blood and put off blood clotting that often results in strokes.

Other benefits of using GLA include relief from infrequent nerve pain. Findings of some studies that have advocated this health benefit of using GLA have shown that the ability of people suffering from neuropathy to convert linolenic acid into gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is greatly reduced.

Gamma-linolenic acid present in evening primrose oil may help to alleviated pain, morning stiffness and swelling. The response of GLA to these conditions is said to be healthy. In the case of morning stiffness, GLA helps to diminish the arachidonic acid, thereby helping to alleviate the sporadic swelling. Often it may take anything between one and three months to experience the benefits of this omega-6 fatty acid in this case. Since it takes some time to ease the symptoms, it is advisable that you should be patient. On the other hand, it is implausible that gamma-linolenic acid will help in medical conditions that are already deteriorating, except for symptomatically.

For several years, people have been using gamma-linolenic acid to get relief from symptoms of occasional allergy. Various studies have revealed that children and women suffering from allergies possess a reduced level of gamma-linolenic acid in their blood.

It is important to note that use of essential fatty acids help to support a healthy brain as well as behaviour functioning. In fact, using evening primrose oil may be useful in alleviating a number of symptoms related to menopause, for instance night sweats and hot flashes.

Intake of GLA supplements on a regular basis may help to ease cyclical hormonal headaches. In addition, gamma-linolenic acid may also help to promote the health of the skin by providing it with fatty acids and various essential nutrients. Similar to all essential fatty acids, GLA also is highly beneficial for the normal and healthy functioning of the heart, thereby preventing heart attacks and strokes.

Side effects and cautions

Being an essential omega-6 fatty acid, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) offers several health benefits, but it needs to be used with caution as it has a number of side effects when taken in doses more than 3,000 mg in a day. For instance, when gamma-linolenic acid supplements are taken in doses higher than 3,000 mg per day, it may interact with medicines used for blood-thinning, immune-suppressing medications such as Cyclosporine, phenothiazines used for treating schizophrenia and even chemotherapy taken for treating cancer. It is advisable that you stay away from gamma-linolenic supplements if you are suffering from seizure disorder. Moreover, you need to avoid using evening primrose oil for no less than two weeks prior to undergoing any surgery wherein you may have to use anesthesia.

Here is another word of caution. It would be really unwise if you start using gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) supplements for remedial purpose without consulting a physician. In fact, if dietary supplements are taken randomly, they can interact with prescription drugs and cause hazardous side effects. People with seizure disorder and pregnant women are especially advised to stay away from supplements containing these fatty acids. The side effects of taking GLA supplements may include abdominal pain, headaches, nausea, diarrhea or loose stools. There is enough evidence that hint that taking gamma-linolenic acid supplements may also result in lower blood pressure. In addition, findings of some studies suggest that use of these supplements may also enhance the chances of developing prostate cancer. In fact, most physicians usually discourage people who are vulnerable to developing prostate cancer from taking GLA supplements.

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